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Saturday, February 04, 2006

FDL Late Nite: In the Trenches

Glenn Greenwald continues his sojourn in DC:
[T]he fact that we were able to obtain access to high-level staffers in the days before these hearings is an encouraging reflection of the growing recognition that the blogosphere is something they cannot ignore or simply use for their benefit, but instead is a substantive and genuine (and growing) force that needs to be recognized, respected and taken seriously. I think we need to look at this as a mid-range project, not something that will yield immediate, overnight results. We've had lots of successes in the past several weeks, with multiple episodes, in having a real impact on the establishment media and even what happens in DC. But it's going to be an incremental process.


Specifically as to the NSA issue, Monday is only the first day and Gonzales (who will be under oath) is only the first witness (Senate Democrats are essentially unanimous that additional witnesses -- perhaps Comey, Ashcroft, Yoo and others -- need to testify, and Gonzales will likely have to come back both because they won't be done questioning him and because additional documents will likely be released by the Justice Department which they are currently trying to withhold). We should be able to build on the access and contacts we created this time by obtaining even more influential access for the coming days of testimony (I say "we" not in the royal sense, but because the meetings I had were enabled by the work of numerous bloggers and inside-DC types who want to help the blogosphere gain more access and influence).

Regarding the hearings themselves, I have a lot of trepidation about what will happen on Monday, to be honest. Democrats are clearly scared of this issue. They believe that Republicans are going to accuse them of "wanting to give Al Qaeda our playbook" (a phrase several different people used independently) and that those tactics will work to obscure the real issues here. They seem -- at least to me -- to be more frightened than impassioned, more worried about how to avoid looking like Al Qaeda allies than how to question Gonzales in order to prove that the Administration here broke the law and that it is intolerable for the President to break the law.
People have been asking what they can do to support Glenn specifically but the NSA hearings in general. One of the things the GOP machine does really well is have a network of people all across the country who are available for booking on any local radio or TV show at the drop of a hat to push right wing talking points. Over at Kos a diarist has a tremendous link to local media in your area (by zip code) where you can find places to write LTEs and call in to radio talk shows. Let them know directly and succinctly that the wiretapping scandal is a matter of bipartisan concern -- people like Grover Norquist and Bob Barr know that the right to privacy is a fundamental American value and the President should be held accountable for breaking the law. That it is cowardly and weak for him to dismiss his critics as "terrorists."

You can then stop by the site and let them know about it, since they're keeping track of media outlets that have been contacted. It's a great, grassrootsy way to counter Karl's army.

And we've now raised $5625 for Ciro Rodriguez here at FDL.

I am so lovin' this.


Casino Jack Screws the Indians -- Yet Again

I've said it before and will no doubt say it again, the best writing in the blogosphere on Jack Abramoff is being done by Mary Beth Williams of Wampum. She has another amazing story up (this time at Kos) about how Casino Jack ran a slush fund to pay off Republicans who provided cover for Gayle Norton and her attempts to keep the government from settling a case in which the Indian lands had been ripped off to the tune of $150 billion by oil, gas, mining and forestry industries:
Colorado native Norton is of the James Watt school of pillage the environment (she entered the Reagan Administration to work for him) and her entire career has been to forward the interests of oil and gas, mining and forestry industries. And in the West, that means easy access to cheap federal land leases, hundreds of millions of acres of land rich with natural resources.

A large chunk of those federal lands are Indian Trust Fund lands, taken into trust in the late 1800s via the Dawes Act, and leased out to industries, ranchers and farmers at cut-rate prices. The money was then to be managed by Interior and paid out to native landowners. Of course, that didn't happen - hence Cobell v. Norton.

The courts have ordered a full accounting of the Trust. Problem is, many of the documents were destroyed, including a slew of them under Norton. So the plaintiffs decided a few years back that the only way to get a real accounting is to audit the industries' books. That's what makes everyone so nervous, as plaintiff experts, having done some sampling, estimate we're talking over $150 billion in underpayments and fraud, along with interest, of course. Yes, $150 BILLION. And the pressure would be huge for Congress to force a repayment by the guilty. If not, then it comes out of the taxpayers' pockets, as the courts have already ordered the accounts be properly audited and brought up to date. Hence, the concern of the oil/gas, mining, ranching, forestry and agriculture interests which use/abuse the land lease process.

So Norton did what she could to subvert the case, but as the heat was turned up, and the Administration losing appeal after appeal, she started pushing for Congressional Republicans to take the case and force a settlement. A settlement for a fraction of the potential amount, but one which would prevent an audit of industry accounts. Who is the chief supporter of a Congressional settlement? None other than the puppet of the oil, gas and mining industry, Richard Pombo. Twice Pombo has written legislation ordering a settlement (both times with no settlement figures, of course), but Delay intervened. Not because he likes Indians, but because he figures that it's safer to stall than to provide even the smallest chance the industry books will be audited. (Delay and most oilmen Congressmen voted against the original Indian Trust Accountability Act back in 1994 - only 36 Reps did.) So from 2002 to 2005, Delay ordered, despite a court order, that no accounting of the trust fund occur (or at least there'd be no funding for it, which, of course, means it doesn't happen.)

This is where Abramoff comes in. He was the slush fund operator. Indians thought they were paying Pombo and others on House Resources and Senate Indian Affairs, et al., for help with gaming issues, and Abramoff was in fact padding coffers necessary to protect the industry from auditing.

Think this is all too far-fetched? Just last week, the NYTimes posted an article on three months' of research into federal land leases (including Indian trust lands) and found rampant fraud and underpayment. In addition, numerous whistleblowers were fired, including Norton and Griles trustee for the BIA, who refused to testify before Congress that the Trust was fine. Accountants and fund managers were fired for doing a good job and finding fraud.

McCain and Pombo are once again pushing for a settlement, and in the increasingly hostile environment for Indians due to success in portraying Abramoff's tribal clients as villains, not victims, they'll most likely get it, at rock-bottom prices. And the industry books will remain safely closed.
And yet the Washington Post spends no small amount of effort trying to drag Democrats into the scandal, while this goes unreported. Norton has fired whistleblowers, and thanks to the efforts of the WaPo and others to smear the Indians:
McCain and Pombo are once again pushing for a settlement, and in the increasingly hostile environment for Indians due to success in portraying Abramoff's tribal clients as villains, not victims, they'll most likely get it, at rock-bottom prices. And the industry books will remain safely closed.
I have to say that when the whole Deborah Howell mess went down, the "Abramoff gave money to Democrats too" thing was actually the lesser target of my rage. The major portion was reserved for the shoddy, condescending, dismissive and downright racist way with which Steno Sue and others at the WaPo continue to characterize the Indian tribes and their involvement in this mess, and the result is stuff like this.

Mary Beth has compiled links to her research here.

(graphic by Graham G.)


Back in the Saddle

Ah it's so good to be back in Plame again.

In digging through the new documents, the first thing that struck me is that they are going full-bore to paint Fitzgerald as an obstructionist (worked for Tom Daschle, why not give it a try?) as they attempt a discovery fishing expedition. And although we always appreciate the appearance on the scene of Fitz's superior snark, this is no doubt one of the reasons Team Libby chose to release his January 26, 2006 letter as part of their motions request this week wherein he openly scoffs at their efforts to do so.

Ding-dong Norah O'Donnell (she can write?) was ever so helpful on this front this morning:
Fitzgerald's letter was responding to a request from Libby's lawyers for additional documents, e-mails and other correspondence the Libby team says is essential to mount a defense. Lawyers for Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding evidence the defense team has sought.
But if one actually bothered to read Libby's Motion to Compel Discovery of Information Regarding News Reporters and Organizations (and here we feel adequately justified in jumping to the conclusion that this is beyond Norah's abilities), it is abundantly clear that Libby's request for documents relies on a complete misstatement of what Libby is actually charged with:
This motion concerns the defense's request for production of documents and information regarding three important issues in this case: what did the press know prior to June 14, 2003 about whether Valerie Plame Wilson worked at the CIA, from whom did they learn it, and with whom did they discuss it. This information is important for a number of reasons. Most significantly, it relates directly to the truth or falsity of two alleged false statements by Mr. Libby: (1) that Mr. Russert said "all the reporters knew" about Ms. Wilson's employment status; and (2) that Mr. Libby "had heard that other reporters were saying that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA."
Is this all they've got? If so Scooter is the one in the bear cage and Fitzgerald is the one with the stick. Scooter is not charged with lying to Tim Russert, he's charged with lying to the FBI and the grand jury about what was said during his conversation with Russert. Fitzgerald never took issue with the substantive truth of what Russert and Libby did or did not say to each other, only that Libby's account of the conversation was different than Russert's. And the evidence supports Russert's version.

Libby's lawyers claim:
There can be no information more material to the defense of a perjury case than information tending to show that the alleged false statements are, in fact, true or that they could be the result of mistake or confusion. The government should not be allowed to charge Mr. Libby with lying about statements concerning what reporters knew about Ms. Wilson's identity, and at the same time deny him information that may establish one of these possible defenses.
Well I'll agree with that, and how handy it is that the government didn't. Libby is not charged with lying about statements concerning what reporters knew, he's charged with something completely different. And Fitzgerald in his letter indicates he is having none of this dancing bs; he makes it clear that they are not entitled to information relevant only to defending Libby against charges that have not been brought against him. Norah does not mention this. Color us surprised.

The release of the Fitzgerald letter by team Libby is still odd, however. While it did obviously lead Norah O'Donnell down the bunny trail she would've gone there anyway with a whole lot less prodding, and the "obstructionist" bit was quite overshadowed by the news that some White House emails had been "disappeared." Which obviously leads to speculation about the Hadley email, and of course Karl Rove. You have to wonder what kind of games within games are being played here.


Now it All Finally Makes Sense

Stephen Colbert:
"You American workers haven't seen an increase in real wages since the 1970s...But are you rioting? No. You're voting for Republican candidates who give people like me tax cuts. You know what? I think that's your way of saying 'thank you.'"
Clip at Crooks & Liars.



I'm still doing a read-through of the re-released opinion on the Libby case wherein a large chunk of the previously redacted pages are now revealed. I promise to do a whole post on it soon, but I want to digest everything and put it into some context before diving into the finer details, and that is just going to take me a little more time than I have had the last couple of days. So apologies to everyone, but I'm working on it.

That said, it's an interesting read, and I'm trying to piece together the narrative between what we've known, what we thought we knew, some wild-ass speculation and whatever facts may now be included in the released information. It's been a wild ride through the Traitorgate case this week, but one thing is becoming more and more clear: Scooter Libby is a big, fat liar.

And he's not very good at it, either.

David Johnston of the NYTimes has some insights this morning on the opinion, including this little tidbit:
Not all of the previously withheld material was released. Several pages, which apparently contained information about Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation of Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, remained under seal. Mr. Rove has not been charged, but remains under investigation although his lawyer has expressed confidence that Mr. Rove will be cleared.
Oh, hello, Mr. Luskin. Nice of you to surface again for a non-quote. Isn't it amusing that the still-redacted portions deal with Karl?

Carol Leonnig of the WaPo, in an article titled "More Allegations of Libby's Lies Revealed: Judge's Report Shows Cheney Aide Is Accused Of Broad Deception" (good one!), details this:
The court records show that Libby denied to a grand jury that he ever mentioned Plame or her CIA job to then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer or then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller in separate conversations he had with each of them in early July 2003. The records also suggest that Libby did not disclose to investigators that he first spoke to Miller about Plame in June 2003, and that prosecutors learned of the nature of the conversation only when Miller finally testified late in the fall of 2005.
Scooter has been a very bad boy -- and Judy was helping him for over a year with her faux-martyred silence. The issue of whether a reporter ought to protect a source who has used her to commit a crime still looms large and has yet to be answered by the journalistic community, in my book. And with this Administration and its constant machinations, it's a question that is sorely in need of some answers.

Richard Schmitt in the Baltimore Sun calls the current Libby defense strategy for what it is: "I'm too important to be required to follow the laws. Laws are for little people." Oh yeah, that's gonna play well with a jury of his peers, isn't it?

Guess Scooter decided to take a page from the Bushie playbook: when in doubt, declare yourself above the law.

(Picture from The Princess Bride. If you have not yet seen this movie, get thee to the video rental place. One of the funniest movies in the history of moviedom.)


Friday, February 03, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Kickin' Ass and Takin' Names

Glenn Greenwald is having a really successful trip to Washington DC. He's meeting with key staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee members as well as media people and representing well for all of us, I'm sure. He flew all the way from Brazil on his own dime for this so stop by his comments and cheer him on.

On the Ciro Rodriguez front, we're now the number three fundraiser on Act Blue with one hundred donors giving $4417 in one day. That's incredible. And as if we needed more motivation, Kos lets us know that his opponent Cuellar "worked with Tom DeLay ally and House Redistricting Committee Chairman Phil King to redraw Texas congressional districts and eliminate five senior Democrats from Congress." Just giving that guy a little extra grief alone is worth it, and you can do so here.

It should be an interesting week. I have to say that I'm really looking forward to the Gonzo questioning myself -- with all the thunder and lightening my dogs haven't been sleeping so well lately and a 25 minute opening statement by Sam Brownback ought to do the trick.

Update: Digby has more on Cuellar and Crooks & Liars lets us know that Tom DeLay thinks all his woes are due to an ACLU plot.


Because Enquiring Minds Want to Know

Ah it's so good to have Dan Froomkin back, isn't it? And he does not disappoint. Compare and contrast to the usual WaPo BushCo. hem kissing:
President Bush's fundamental challenge as he tries to regain his political footing is that most Americans don't trust him anymore.

In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, for instance, 53 percent of Americans said they do not consider him honest and trustworthy. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found 52 percent of Americans believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public in making its case for war in Iraq. Serious stuff.


And yet, when Bush faces the press corps -- either en masse, in a news conference, or in the occasional sit-down interview -- the central issue of credibility typically goes unexplored.


It seems to me the trick would be for the next news outlet that gets a sit-down with the president to devote an entire interview -- a la Oprah v. Frey -- to the issue of credibility. And to be prepared with quotes and clips -- a la Stewart -- to force Bush to directly address the various inconsistent, misleading, or outright false statements that have peppered his presidency.

Such an interview could still be wide ranging, of course. It could cover the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; his descriptions of the run-up to war; his views of progress in Iraq; his statements -- and then silence -- about the CIA leak investigation; his concealment of -- and then questionable assertions about -- domestic spying; his promises for New Orleans; his stonewalling on the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

I could go on.

And in fact, with the help of you readers, I'd like to put together a series of sample interview questions for the president on the subject of his credibility. E-mail me at (And I apologize in advance for not responding to each e-mail.)
It wouldn't even require the talents of a bully like Oprah, all they'd really have to do is ask a few pertinent questions and insist that Bush, you know, answer them.

I realize of course that the chances of this actually happening roughly approach those of me doing some command performance tapdancing at the Royal Albert Hall in the next week or so. But it does bring to mind that there were days not so long ago when we had a president who had not delivered such a thorough screwing to the entire country that he feared facing the people under anything but the most controlled circumstances.

How they palm off that Steely Eyed Rocket Man malarky with a guy who is consumed by fear at the sight of a black t-shirt is a mystery to me.


Traitorgate: When It Rains, It Pours

The inestimable and prolific Murray Waas adds yet another piece to the Traitorgate puzzle, catching a bit that I missed buried in the Libby motions. Posting on his WhateverAlready blog, Waas says:
The information provided to Bush occurred in the form of one of the “President’s Daily Briefs,” a typically 30-tp45-minute [sic] early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services. PDB’s are considered among the most highly classified intelligence reports in the government, and are only provided to the President, and whoever he might invite to the morning briefing.

The information about Bush having been briefed about Wilson’s mission to Niger is contained in court papers filed in federal court. Attorneys for I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, President Bush’s former chief of staff and national security advisors, were seeking information about presidential PDBs from the special prosecutor, as part of a discovery effort to defend their client.
Waas also details even more information regarding his disclosure that Libby and Cheney were briefed by the CIA in June of 2003 that the yellowcake allegations were not credible -- and that Cheney continued to defend the yellowcake story as late as September of 2003 on Meet the Press. Lying wanker. (Add this to the reminder from reader Dover Bitch that RawStory reported last October that Condi Rice had also been briefed on Wilson in June of 2003 -- the whole PDB/Presidential briefing story for the Preznit comes into some even clearer context in terms of WHIG involvement and dissemination of information -- so many questions, so few answers.)

Waas has more about the PDB issue and the Preznit here. I look for this to be a bone of contention -- but only if Team Libby gets beyond the point that the content of the PDBs has nothing whatsoever to do with a client charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction, other than as a convenient means of throwing up a smoke screen to hopefully obscure the fact that their client, while formerly a busy man, was also a big liar.

Froomkin is especially good again today, with some links to Libby stories and many other goodies.

Mother Jones is carrying a new article from Elizabeth de la Vega, in which the former US Attorney speculates about the sword of Damocles hanging over Rove, and why Fitzgerald will eventually wield it to Karl's detriment. The article is a great window into the mindset of prosecutors -- you can hear her disgust with Karl's lying machinations as much as you can imagine them coming from Fitz himself. (Or from me. Prosecutors are notorious for being utterly disgusted and severely angered by lyings sacks of crap. There must be something in the job that draws that sort of mindset into the fold, but there you are.)

De la Vega draws a very important distinction in how Fitz operates and how Rove does, and it is worth noting here because this needs to get much more discussion in this country. I hope she doesn't mind, but I'm going to do a more extended excerpt than usual, because it is a great example of the dichotomy of ethics and the utter lack of scruples.
Fitzgerald's world is far removed from the world of expediency and personal advantage in which Karl Rove operates. In his carefully crafted statements during the FBI interview on October 8, Rove indicated an obvious belief that he could get away with spreading information about government employees for political purposes as long as someone else had revealed that information first, regardless of whether or not the information was disparaging or classified. He did not appear to be concerned with where the information came from, or even whether it was true.

Although it is astounding that Rove would blatantly describe such a despicable ethos (if you can call it that), it should not have been unexpected. In the world of campaign politics that Rove has so long inhabited, smears and personal attacks are designed to seem as if they were spontaneously generated. They can then wander around, undirected, until they finally curl up in America's living rooms like so many mysterious, uninvited guests. These intruders may be rude and destructive, but no one is supposed to be able to get rid of them, in part because no one is supposed to be able to sort out or pinpoint how they got there in the first place. Thus, although Karl Rove has lurked in the background of an unprecedented number of whisper and smear campaigns -- that, for instance, John McCain had an illegitimate child (a rumor spread during the Republican primaries that preceded the 2000 election), or that former Texas Governor Ann Richards was a lesbian (a persistent rumor that was spread during Bush's Texas gubernatorial campaign) -- he has never been held accountable. And that is a state of affairs to which Rove became accustomed.

Rove has escaped responsibility for his sneaky campaign tricks because the candidates for whom he has worked -- most prominently, George Bush -- have had a stunning ability to accept, unquestioningly, the miraculous appearance of information that takes down their opponents. They had no problem about endorsing brazen dishonesty or the least interest in ferreting out bad actors in their camps. At the same time, opposing candidates have had neither the resources, nor the time to fully investigate the attacks before plummeting in the polls. Afterwards, of course, it was already far too late.
If you think for a moment that a man like Patrick Fitzgerald will allow a person who he believes to be guilty to walk free if there is anything that he can do to bring about justice against that individual, then you know nothing at all about what it means to be a true prosecutor. The bile that rises up in my throat at the thought of Rove's machinations -- through the years, but especially in outing a CIA NOC purely for political payback purposes (and potentially for the broader purpose of bringing the CIA to heel) -- I can't even describe it.

For Fitz and his team, having immersed themselves in this world for the last months and having seen how these people operate, the fiduciary obligation to the citizens of this nation taking a seat far behind the needs of political expediency for this President and his corrupt band of Machiavellian cronies, their ends justifies the means no matter what the damn cost methodology -- if you think for one moment that a man like Pat Fitzgerald and his staff aren't completely disgusted...well, you are just hopeless.

Read all of the above, and tell me you can't feel the downpour, the thunder of a storm gathering in the distance -- and tell me you aren't also looking forward to the deluge that will follow, the steady stream of cleansing rain. Here's hoping.


Crashing the Gates

In the preface to their new book, "Crashing the Gates," Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga acknowledge that last fall they took a long look at everything they had put together for their book to date, realized they were lost, chucked it all and started over.

After reading the book I can understand what fostered this sentiment. They had taken on the extraordinary difficult task of wrestling all the flailing tentacles of the right wing machine, as well as the horrible legacy of the past four years of George Bush's imperial reign, and tried to hone it down to a simple, direct message that was focused through the lens of their formidable online experience to forge a blueprint for the future of netroots activism. That they would suddenly find themselves sitting in a pile of unwieldy information is no surprise. That they would have the courage to throw it all out, regroup and refine their narrative to a 183 page dagger that cuts to the heart of the system most certainly is.

The book is a gem, a must-read for anyone contemplating the future of online activism, a subject that is certainly consuming pages and pages of blog space these days. Their outline of the extremely deep and well-developed GOP message apparatus is fascinating, and their examination of it as it worked to shape public perceptions around many events that should have played well for the Democrats is both enlightening and daunting.

But perhaps of even greater concern is their depiction of the DC Democratic consultant/interest group nexus that could really not do a better job of keeping their party in the minority if they tried. As disheartening as these details are to read, however, the book gives a clearer picture than anything out there to date about exactly what we're up against, its architecture and its weaknesses.

Crashing the Gate is way ahead of its time; you'll no doubt see copycat tomes just catching up to it years from now. It does presume familiarity with a lot of events, personalities and online conventions that might make it a bit challenging for people unfamiliar with the blog world to fully understand, but it is so engaging and well-written that I don't think that would be a problem for any intelligent person whose first exposure to the world of political blogging and online activism came with this book. I myself really appreciated the respect for the reader that this style of writing displays; I didn't feel like I was always trying to scan through pages and pages of exposition that I already know all too well.

Sometimes I feel like I get lost in the day-to-day aspect of blogging and never step back to take the long view of what we're engaged in. This book does this superbly and if you're on my birthday list this year you now know what you're getting.

You can buy Crashing the Gates online here through the publisher, at Amazon and also at Barnes & Noble.


The New Waas, Eriposte and What Cheney Knew

Eriposte at the Left Coaster is the premiere braintrust on the Niger documents. And his take on the latest piece from Murray Waas is well worth a read and a re-read. Both Waas and eriposte have been indespensible in filling in some of the Administration gaps on this aspect of the Traitorgate case, and especially on what Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby knew and did not know about Joe Wilson and his trip to Niger for the CIA.

But these latest pieces in the puzzle truly let the sun shine in on one very clear fact: Cheney and Libby knew, in June of 2003, that the claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain uranium ore from Africa was false. From eriposte:
In a nutshell, multiple aspects of what I had reported last year were confirmed by Waas' story and he adds the important additional piece of information regarding the CIA having informed Libby and Cheney in June 2003 about their recall of the uranium from Africa claim.
What does this mean for the Traitorgate case? It means that Cheney and Libby were well aware that Cheney's public claims of Saddam's attempts to obtain the uranium were false, that Wilson knew they were false, and to protect the Vice President's public credibility a political hit would need to be made against Joe Wilson to silence him and his criticism before the American public caught on to the fact that Cheney's pre-war claims could not be substantiated.

And that political hit was planned, beginning in June of 2003, and executed through a series of leaks to the press about Joe Wilson's trip to Africa and through an attempt to emasculate Amb. Wilson via releasing the information (also false) that his wife was responsible for his trip.

Apologists for this Administration have tried all along to say that this was pushback, that Amb. Wilson was lying, and have bought the Administration's line on this whole hog. But the bottom line is this: Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby have known since June of 2003 that there was no credible attempt by Saddam Hussein to purchase yellowcake from Africa, and they went forward with their political smear of Amb. Wilson and his wife Valerie to save their own careers and public personas.

Can you say conspiracy? I thought you could. For anyone who has wondered why Fitz went forward with limited charges on obstruction against Libby -- and why he has pressed them forward with such clear, factual lines, I have your answer: Libby is, indeed the firewall between Fitz and the Vice President and others in the WHIG.

Read eriposte and Waas back to back, and see if you don't reach the same conclusion. And then ask yourself what a coincidence it was that e-mails from that same period have mysteriously failed to have been archived properly in the VP and WH systems. And then ask yourself how it is that so many reporters were contacted by so many members of the WHIG with the same message over and over about looking into who sent Amb. Wilson on his trip and why.

And then ask yourself how all of this together can be one big coincidence.

NOTE: There are newly released legal bits from the initial Tatel opinion and severl other things I'm trying to sort through at the moment. There will be more to come today.


Libby Hearing Today -- Trial Set for Jan. 8, 2007

Scooter Libby and Patrick Fitzgerald will meet again in court today for a scheduling conference and hearing with Federal judge Reggie Walton, the presiding judge in the Libby matter.

Libby turned on the charm this morning while entering the building, doing the full-court public opinion PR campaign by joking with reporters and sharing some coffee. Looks like it worked, because it got a mention from the AP reporter covering the case.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, stopped for coffee and made small talk with reporters as he headed to a conference room on the second floor of the courthouse.
Nothing like the faux nonchalence of a defendant facing a completely inconsequential scheduling conference where nothing of import will be decided other than calendar matters to show that he's all confidence and charm. Or that he fully understands the manipulation of public opinion by faking things and getting non-questioning coverage of pick.

A scheduling conference hearing like this gives the presiding judge an opportunity to get a sense of how things are going in the case, what problems are likely to crop up with regard to discovery or other sticky matters, and to set a series of deadlines and dates for further motions, arguments hearings, and all sorts of other housekeeping matters.
Walton was not expected to hear arguments on motions that Libby's lawyers have filed over disputes they have with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Instead, the judge was likely to set deadlines for additional motions and schedule future hearings. He may also set a trial date....

The first part of Friday's hearing was to be public, with a second segment to be held behind closed doors.

In the secret session, Walton was to begin setting deadlines for evaluating what currently classified evidence Libby will be allowed to present to a jury in open court.
This is likely to be a fairly routine conference where the judge will lay out his view of how things should move forward, set guidelines as to what he will or will not tolerate in terms of pushing the boundaries of requests and motions, and set a whole lot of dates on the timeline moving toward trial. It is highly unlikely that anything of any consequence other than scheduling will be done, but I'll be keeping an ear to the ground on this just in case and will report back if I hear anything different.

If nothing else, maybe we can get some good Fitz news later today. Here's hoping anyway.

UPDATE: CNN's John King reporting that the Libby trial date has been set for January 8, 2007, with motions hearings on the classified material and other matters set throughout the spring and summer this year. The public portion of the hearing has been completed, and they have moved into closed session.

David Shuster reporting on MSNBC that Libby's team is arguing that Fitz is not providing classified materials, and Fitz is saying that he doesn't have a number of the materials requested because the WH has not turned them over to the prosecutorial team. And, aside from that, Fitz argues that a number of the materials requested are not even relevent to the matter at hand. This will be argued in motions hearings going forward.

Shuster is also reporting that the trial date is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8, 2007. Ted Wells (one of Libby's lead attorneys) has another trial set in the Fall 2006, and that is one of the reasons that the trial schedule has been stretched to next winter, to accommodate his schedule. (This is very common.)

One of the reasons that the motions hearings are scheduled on a delay is that Libby's penmanship in his handwritten notes is so poor, that they have had to make provisions for Libby to go through his own notes and try and type them out so that both Fitz and his own legal team can interpret what they say. The judge acknowledged that Libby may not even be able to interpret his own handwriting, and they may have to make some other provisions for some of the pages -- but they will deal with that as they get to each segment.

More information as I get it this morning.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Republican in Sheep's Clothing

This, to quote Paris Hilton, is hot:
A well-traveled photograph of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar being embraced by President Bush prior to Tuesday's State of the Union address triggered a rush of Internet donations to one of Cuellar's Democratic primary rivals Thursday.

Within hours of a call to arms being posted on two liberal-leaning political blogs, the Daily Kos and Eschaton, former congressman Ciro Rodriguez's campaign received 263 cyber contributions totaling nearly $12,000, according to ActBlue, a Web-based clearinghouse for Democratic candidates nationwide.

“This may be billed as a Democratic primary, but in this solidly Democratic Latino-majority district, Republicans needed a Republican in sheep's clothing like Cuellar to have a chance of winning,” the Daily Kos blog post read.

Oscar Sanchez, a spokesman for the Rodriguez campaign, said the photograph of Bush holding a smiling Cuellar's head between his hands struck a nerve among Democrats.

“It really shows that Democrats want a real Democrat in Congress,” Sanchez said.

A spokesman for Cuellar, who has been criticized as too cozy with the GOP since his support of Bush over Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, characterized the controversy as a “one-day story.”
Thanks to everyone who donated, we raised $1100 for Rodriguez today on this site alone. You can contribute here.

No more faux Dems....


Isolationist Boogeymen

Andrew Bacevich in the LA Times:
IN HIS STATE of the Union address on Tuesday, President Bush worked himself into a lather about the dangers of "retreating within our borders." His speech bulged with ominous references to ostensibly resurgent isolationists hankering to "tie our hands" and leave "an assaulted world to fend for itself." Turning inward, the president cautioned, would provide "false comfort" because isolationism inevitably "ends in danger and decline."

But who exactly are these isolationists eager to pull up the drawbridges? What party do they control? What influential journals of opinion do they publish? Who are their leaders? Which foundations bankroll this isolationist cause?

The president provided no such details, and for good reason: They do not exist. Indeed, in present-day American politics, isolationism does not exist. It is a fiction, a fabrication and a smear imported from another era.

Isolationism survives in contemporary American political discourse because it retains utility as a cheap device employed to impose discipline. Think of it as akin to red-baiting — conjuring up bogus fears to enforce conformity in the realm of foreign policy. In that regard, the beleaguered Bush, his standing in public opinion polls tumbling, is by no means the first president to sound the alarm about supposed isolationists subverting American statecraft.
I guess this is the latest broadside in the GOP meme wars. We're not commies any more, we're not granola eating liberals (hard to characterize Murtha as that), we're "isolationists." I imagine they dreamed up this particular me just for Murtha and the growing faction he represents, in fact.

No doubt this is poised to go on auto-repeat by the Mighty Wurlitzer.


NARAL Defends Chafee to the End

This is absurd. A letter received by mike4273 from NARAL over Lincoln Chafee:
Thank you for contacting us. As a pro-Choice American, your values and beliefs are at the core of our mission. We want to hear from you and appreciate the support you have demonstrated over the years to help make our online advocacy program one of the most effective and admired in the progressive community.

I have read your note, and I know you are not happy with us regarding our endorsement of Senator Lincoln Chafee. We did indeed urge senators to support extended debate on the controversial Alito nomination - and naturally, it's a disappointment when any senator votes against our recommendation. In fact, if you review the vote tally, you will see that we lost many pro-choice senators on the cloture vote -- not just Chafee. You should know that we did score both Alito votes, so the record will forever document each senator's ultimate decision on each vote. In other words, it's not being ignored.

But with so many relentless attacks on choice, and an anti-choice president determined to see this right taken away from American women forever, we must prioritize our work, and we need all the friends we can get. I do understand your frustration with Senator Chafee's vote - but he is a longtime ally and he has earned our endorsement. We treat him no differently than any other pro-choice senator - Democrat or Republican. I know we disagree on this one point, but our challenge is so monumental that I hope we can continue to stand together against our real opponents: President Bush, congressional leaders, and anti-choice senators who oppose us on every single vote.

Again, I appreciate the passion of your commitment to the fundamental freedoms we cherish. You are always welcome to contact us--with agreements and disagreements. I hope we can count on your continued support as we roll up our sleeves to achieve the common goals we share.

What decade are they living in? Do they fundamentally not understand that a vote for cloture was a vote for Alito? That Lincoln Chafee was let off his leash by the GOP to vote against Alito when it was purely window dressing, and he did not back them up on the vote that counted?

I received this last night from reader Gosprey, and I want everyone to read it because I don't think NARAL or PFAW or anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle who thought this battle was not worth fighting understands this. This comes from STRATFOR (no link, via email), so consider the source, but it's a good insight into how much the right had banking on an Alito victory:
"Recall, if you will, our view last fall that Bush was on the verge of a failed presidency. At that point, if he dropped below the 35-37 percent approval range, his core constituency would have been deserting him -- and that is something from which no president recovers. Bush hit the level and then paused. For about a month, his presidency teetered on the brink. Then the numbers started to rise and grew steadily into the mid- to high-40s -- which isn't great, but is out of the danger zone.

"For Bush, the very first step was to consolidate his base of support. He did a number of things along those lines, but the single most important thing he did came to fruition Tuesday -- Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. The Republican core consists of three constituencies: Social, economic and national security conservatives. Last fall, Bush was in trouble with two of these groups. The national security conservatives felt that he was not providing sufficient resources to the military, was stretching it too thin. But he had to nail down the social conservatives before he could consider anything else.

"That's what Alito's nomination and confirmation were designed to do. Social conservatives believe -- hearings notwithstanding -- that Alito is with them on their key issues. Whether he is or not remains to be seen, but that Bush satisfied this key constituency has been obvious. He stabilized them as soon as he announced Alito's nomination.
As Gosprey notes, if Bush had lost control of the base and his polls continued to sink we would have stood a much better chance in the fall of 2006. That the Democrats and the interest groups did not at the very minimum use this as an opportunity to flush out the blue state "moderate" GOP Senators and make them show their allegiance to Bush over any kind of progressive causes they pretend to support is inexcusable.

In the Post article this morning, Ben Nelson pretty much woke up to ads in his local paper supporting Alito. Where were the local ads from the other side? Where was the campaign to put pressure on the Gang of 14, whose influence carried the day? That NARAL and others did not use this opportunity to give serious blows to Senators who do not -- make no mistake about it, despite all window dressing to the contrary -- support their agenda is so misguided it's ridiculous.

Says Digby:
If the NRA had been in NARAL's position this past week, they would have ripped their support from Lincoln Chafee so fast it would make Trent Lott's hair crack. They know when to pull the strings. Chafee chose his gang of 14 cred over his pro-choice cred. That's all you need to know about him. He has shown himself useless to the cause and should be dropped immediately. This is a seat that can be picked up by a real pro-choice Democrat who isn't running as a bowl of lukewarm water.

I honestly can't understand what in the hell they were thinking. It's one thing to back Chafee to make the Democrats not take you for granted. It's quite another to continue to back him after he failed a monumental test. Now Chafee knows they won't press him when the shit comes down and Democrats see them as a spent and useless force. What a spectacular strategy. When forced childbirth becomes the law of the land, I'm sure they'll be able to sleep nights knowing they cleverly backed a man who played them for fools.
That NARAL continues to back Lincoln Chafee over his opponent who would not have voted for cloture is just wrong, and their continued defense of him indicates that they fundamentally do not understand the long game, and they have no perception into the nature of what they are up against.

You can contact them here:
NARAL Pro-Choice America
1156 15th Street, NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005

Main Number: 202.973.3000
Main Fax: 202.973.3096
feedback form
NARAL is asking readers on their blog what they think they should do. I encourage you to make your thoughts known, and please be respectful, we are fighting for the same ultimate goal.


Voting With Dollars

In light of the abject, dismal failure on the part of interest groups like NARAL and PFAW to do anything other than sit on piles of cash during the Alito confirmation (and if anyone needs to stoke their rage on that particular front, read this article from this morning, about which I'll have more later) a lot of people have been emailing me asking for advice on the best places to put their money. I'm sorry if I've been slow getting back to people because the answer is I just didn't have an answer; the thorough and shocking inadequacy of these groups we've all been giving to came as a surprise to me as well.

Today both Atrios and Kos have endorsed the candidacy of Ciro Rodriguez who is running for a congressional seat in Texas. His opponent Cuellar (pictured above in full-on Lieberman mode) looks ready, as Kos notes, to jump ship over to the GOP at any moment. Rodriguez is a solid pro-choice Democrat and his primary is coming up on March 7. I've set up a ActBlue page for candidates worthy of support and donated the first $100 to Rodriguez myself, , so anyone looking to register some financial outrage against Democrats wandering across the aisle and and abandoning progressive values can do so here.


A Moment of Zen


Read here.



False Promises

Bush at the State of the Union on Tuesday:
The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances. So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative – a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.
The reality -- Bush cutting the budget for the Department of Energy's alternative fuels research division by 15%, and laying off scientists working in the fields of biomass fuels, wind energy and other alternative energy source projects:
The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget.

A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports.

The budget for the laboratory, which is just west of Denver, was cut by nearly 15 percent, to $174 million from $202 million, requiring the layoff of about 40 staff members out of a total of 930, said a spokesman, George Douglas. The cut is for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.
First, the Preznit said we'd be reducing our addiction to foreign oil, and backed off that promise yesterday. Now we find he'd already cut the budget for the very alternative fuel initiatives he touted as potential substitutes -- before he ever gave the State of the Union.

George Bush: open mouth, insert false promises. ThinkProgress has a whole host of other lies from the Bush Administration. For shame, Bushie.

At least we still have that whole Manimal thing. (Don't we? I still don't know what that was about...)

(Hat tip to reader tom for the heads up on the Bumiller article. Graphics love to The DemStoreMonthly.)


Let's See...Who Was It that Thought He'd Be Indicted?

Oh yeah, it was Stephen Hadley.

I've been going over and over the Libby motion filings in my brain since my first pass on everything last night. And Hadley's name keeps popping into my thoughts. Just why was Mr. Hadley so worried about being indicted? Could it have anything to do with the improperly archived e-mails from the offices of the Vice President and Executive Office of President?

Pure speculation on my part. But it does make one wonder...Hadley was, after all, involved on one end of the Rove/Hadley e-mail that was missing for so long.

And I wanted to point out a great catch from Jeff in the comments on which officials might have been the blabbers with Dickerson on the Preznit's trip to Africa:
As for Dickerson, it's unclear where Fitzgerald is getting his information, but note that he says they understand this, which suggests they didn't get the info directly from Dickerson's testimony. But here's what Dickerson, who was on Bush's Africa trip, wrote on October 31 2005:

More astonishingly, we learn from the Fitzgerald indictment that Ari Fleischer knew about Plame and didn't tell anyone at all. He walked reporters, including me, up to the fact, suggesting they look into who sent Wilson, but never used her name or talked about her position.

And here's Howard Fineman from last summer:

on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip.

So pretty obviously the government officials are Bartlett and Fleischer, though that still raises the question of how the special prosecutor understands that plural government officials talked with Dickerson, and why they understand it rather than being aware of it, as they are with regard to knowledge of the other reporters' knowledge. Does this come from Bartlett's testimony? I've thought that Bartlett was a likely suspect as Pincus' July 12 source, who we know has identified himself to Fitzgerald.
And then there was this comment from reader hello regarding the type of system the WH was using for e-mail back-up as late as 2000:
Ok, searching a bit of history, the White House was using Lotus Notes as late as 2000 as part of a system called ARMS (automated records management system)....

"The White House likely will have to spend 170 days and $1.8 million to $3 million to reconstruct thousands of e-mail messages that are available only as raw data on server backup tapes, White House counsel Beth Nolan said last month in a letter to the House Government Reform Committee. "

So it seems even if the e-mail does not make it to the archives, there likely is a backup...
Well, that's quite interesting, now isn't it? As Davis X. Machina pointed out last night in the comments, "the document retention rules for the White House were changed, and e-documents were made subject to the same rules as paper documents in '98." So the National Archives may also have some copies of things. Curiouser and curiouser, no? And that doesn't even account for the activity logs, as Paul Lukusiak points out.

Really great work -- and examples of how superb our commenters truly are. Jane and are are so lucky to have all of you.

NOTE: Hearings currently going on in the Senate Intelligence Committee on C-Span, dealing with some of the domestic spying issues from the illegal FISA/NSA end-run.

UPDATE: Digby has more on the archiving of e-mails. Good stuff, as always.

UPDATE #2: Mark Kleiman has more on the broad discovery requests and Fitz's use of anti-graymail provisions of CIPA. And why removing e-mail is a very, very bad thing to do.


Freedom Is Not Free for the Taking

Eric Lichtblau is reporting in today's NYTimes that the Bush Administration is refusing to turn over requested documents, including pertinent legal memoranda, to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding their illegal FISA/NSA end-run. Shorter Bushie: "Screw you. Now what are you going to do about it?"

Here's a thought for Arlen Specter and Republicans on the Committee: step up to the plate, find out whether you do or don't have the cojones to do your job, and subpoena the documents. If the WH refuses to comply with the subpoena, hold them in contempt of Congress and throw someone's butt in jail until you get what you have requested.

I mean, really, enough is enough. Being a rubber stamp only gets you so far in life -- if Republican members of Congress want to do more than just draw their paycheck, take bribes from lobbyists and raise campaign funds, then they should start acting like members of Congress.

Let's be honest: Republicans outnumber Democrats on the Committee, so if there is to be any meaningful oversight as the Constitution requires them to do, then Republicans are going to have to get off their kowtow-ing butts and actually do their jobs. No amount of Democrats asking for things to be done gets them any closer -- Republicans have to stop being afraid of this Administration and stand on their own feet for this to be anything other than a sham hearing.

And to be clear: there are a lot of Republicans upset about the Administration's illegal actions. Some very conservative Republicans, like Bob Barr, Grover Norquist, Bruce Fein, and many, many others have been quite vocal about this issue -- because it goes to the heart of privacy concerns and other civil liberties that the Founders of this nation fought so hard to establish when we had our first revolution against King George.

What is the Administration so afraid of, anyway? If what they are doing is so okey-dokey, why hide behind a "we're not showing you what we did" cloak of secrecy? The Preznit is afraid that Republicans, who dominate the Committee, will play politics with his actions -- come on! Or is it that the Administration has known all along that their actions were illegal and stretched the bounds of law, and are now trying to avoid any responsibility for them? (I can count the Administration's acceptance of responsibility for errors moments on a coupla fingers, if that tells you anything.)

And the Preznit's "white paper" is simply a bunch of hot air, and the Congress knows it -- citing actions taken by the Germans during WWII as historical precedent for the Preznit's actions isn't exactly confidence-inspiring on the legality front, now is it?

It's the "say one thing, do something illegal behind your back" Administration. Nixon had nothing on these Orwellian maestroes -- and it is about time the Republican-controlled Congress showed their hand: are you for the American people or for an out-of-control, unchecked power grab? (If you choose B, can the American public get a refund on all your publicly-funded paychecks, because you don't deserve them any longer.)

This is the moment where the rubber stamp meets the road. I'll say this: if Republicans in Congress hold liberty so cheaply that they are willing to give it away to the Preznit, then they ought not ever invoke patriotic symbolism again in the name of re-election.

Democracy and freedom must be fought for every day -- Old Glory demands no less of every single citizen in this nation. Our Founders understood this and were willing to pay with their lives to establish the liberties that we enjoy today. Are Republicans saying that which these patriots paid so dearly to purchase is now so cheaply sold in the name of an illusion of temporary security? If so, then Bin Laden and all the other enemies of liberty have won.

This is your chance, Arlen Specter and company: are you patriots or are you lemmings, willing to sacrifice our ideals on the altar of temporary power? You have subpoena power, use it. You are a separate branch of government, charged with oversight and having a solemn responsibility as a balancing mechanism against illegal actions and violations of existing law on the part of the Executive Branch. History will record whether you step up to the plate -- or whether you sat back and did nothing in the face of illegality.

The Constitution is more than a piece of paper, it is a living document that must be fought for every single day by those representatives whom we elect and entrust with the solemn duty to uphold our principles of democracy and liberty. Freedom is not free for the taking.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Let Us All Now Listen to Digby

This afternoon the AP had a few cooperative words on the Sheehan arrest:
Sheehan's T-shirt alluded to the number of soldiers killed in Iraq: "2245 Dead. How many more?" . . .

Young's shirt had just the opposite message: "Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom."
Glenn Greenwald (and others from the comments) were on this earlier, and Glenn emailed the article's author, Laurie Kellman. I feel like the friggin' revision police these days, but I just went back to the article for the link I found that it had been changed. It now reads:
Young's shirt had this message: "Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom."
Nobody wants to be the next Deborah Howell. Score one for the team.

But it's amazing what a bunch of trained monkeys the press have become, so effortlessly repeating right-wing talking points that they truly seem to have internalized them and made them their own. Peter Daou and Steve Benen have begun to chronicle the frequency with which this happens and it's quite something to behold when you see it all lumped together in one spot. The words "steaming pile" come to mind.

I have to confess I am guilty of some of the same behavior, however. I am trying to practice what Digby preaches:
People are more reluctant to identify themselves as liberals or progressives than they were in 1988 and one of the reasons is that people like Al From and his boys helped the Republicans degrade the label to such an extent that people don't want to be associated with it. It is one thing to criticize your brothers; it's another to sully the family name. They continue to do this by talking about purging Michael Moore and Move-On and generally showing such a lack of respect for the grassroots that you wonder why they don't just call us all filthy rabble and tell us to eat cake. The lesson here is to never employ GOP rhetoric about the Democratic Party, ever. This is one thing that simply has got to stop.
Digby's right -- do not reinforce Republican narratives, ever. It's hard when you want to point out that certain Democrats seem to be...ouch...lacking critical anatomical parts, but the much harder task is to find another way to criticize them. The GOP does a bang-up job characterizing the Democrats as weak, they sure don't need us to do their job for them.

Hey, aren't those some manly, rugged hairplugs on Joe Biden?


Where There's Smoke...

This morning's NYDaily News held quite a juicy tidbit at the very end of a short article on the latest discovery request filings from Team Libby.
Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.
Well, that doesn't sound good, now does it? So I have spent the day hunting down documents(and having them sent to me by reader angel SD and by Jeralyn at TalkLeft, who had sent me some previous docs), and then reading and re-reading everything to be certain I'd gotten it the way Fitz was intending it...and I must say, these motions and responses and correspondence make for a veddy, veddy interesting read. (These documents are, unfortunately, not available as yet to link -- they were pulled from the Federal filing system, but when links become available, I will post them. I'll summarize and quote below to give you a feel for them.)

And I have to say, I agree wholeheartedly with both Jeralyn and Kevin Drum that this missing e-mail trail is going to require a lot of inquiry, if it isn't already getting just that -- can you say destruction of evidence, conspiracy, obstruction and a whole host of other problems? I thought you could.

But let's step back from that for just a moment, and look at the whole of the motions and correspondence. Because there is a LOT there above and beyond the missing e-mails from the Vice President's and President's offices for certain periods in 2003. (Man, that felt good to type. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it did. It felt good.)

As Neil Lewis reported in today's NYTimes, the most recent Libby defense motion outlines some of the avenues that Team Libby is contemplating as potential defenses should the case go to trial. It's the "my job was hard, so I can't be held responsible for my tired mind making me do illegal things like lying to a grand jury" defense.
The lawyers for Mr. Libby said that the conversations Mr. Libby had with reporters in the summer of 2003 in which he might have discussed Ms. Wilson's association with the Central Intelligence Agency "occurred in the midst of an unending torrent of meetings, briefings and discussions of far more urgent and sensitive issues, including for example, the detection and prevention of terrorist attacks against the United States," bringing stability to Iraq and the spread of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran.

Mr. Libby was "inundated from early in the morning until late at night with the most sensitive national security issues this country faces," his lawyers said, and the relative insignificance of his conversations with reporters about Ms. Wilson "compared to other matters occupying Mr. Libby's mind at the time, bears directly on whether he deliberately lied (as the government contends) or made honest misstatements."
My hard job made me lie. Well, it's certainly an original defense tactic, I'll give them that. But, as Fitzgerald made abundantly clear in his correspondance (appended to the motion as Exhibits B and C), he's neither sympathetic nor gullible.

In fact, I'd say that both letters from Fitz are politely worded lawyerese for calling bullshit on the entire tactic. For example, when John Cline, in a letter dated 12/14/05 (Exhibit A), requests pretty much any piece of paper that Scooter Libby may have taken a breath near at any time in his employment and then some, Fitz responds on 1/9/06 (Exhibit B) by stating firmly that he will not allow a random fishing expidition without some show of cause as to why the document is deemed related to Libby's charges of perjury, obstruction and false statements.

On 1/23/06 (Exhibit C), Fitz again responds to further requests for document and other evidentiary production by saying "Nice try, but no." (Okay, he doesn't actually say that, but that's what he means.) One of my favorite bits comes at a time when Fitz explains why he is not handing Team Libby a copy of everything he has in this case because it is still an ongoing investigation, and because there is not, as a matter of custom, an "open door" policy of discovery in this circuit, and especially not in matters where classified information is so pertinent to the matter at hand.
As you are aware, your client has not been charged with a substantive violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 793. Accordingly, your client is not entitled to discovery of sensitive national security materials pertinent only to a prosecution of a substantive violation of that statute. (Ex. C, p.1)
If you add in the words "moron" and "yet" in a couple of places, it becomes a much more amusing read, but you get a feel for the tone Fitz is using with Team Libby in that one snippet. And I can feel that veiled "but I will accommodate you on additional charges if you'd like to push the matter further" there, can't you?

On pages 2 and 3 of Exhibit C, we discover that Fitz has a substantial collection of notes and papers on the Wilson trip obtained from CIA sources and from the VP's office, and I get the impression that the LATimes story about Libby's meticulous notekeeping and information gathering about the Wilson's may have been even more accurate than we all thought at the time. That's going to be interesting to watch play out at trial.

At the top of page 4, Exhibit C, Fitzgerald politely points out to Libby's attorneys that they misrepresented both what he has said to them and what he did in a motion to the Court, and that he does not take kindly to such misrepresentation. In no uncertain terms. Methinks that whole "Fitz doesn't like a liar" rumor that we've all heard is spades.

In the middle of the same page, there is this revelation:
We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time Magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson's wife. Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11. (emphasis mine)
Sounds like that Presidential trip to Africa just got a whole lot more interesting, now doesn't it? And which official coughed up this hairball for Fitz and his team -- which must have been discovered after the January 18, 2006, conference call referenced in the letter? Sounds to me like the investigators in this case are still going full bore. And that the grand jury may have heard some new evidence along with playing catch up from the prior grand jury's work, if so. Isn't that interesting?

Shall we play a game of guess which officials (and note the use of the plural in Fitz's correspondence) opened their yaps to Mr. Dickerson? And whether Mr. Dickerson was the one who spoke with Fitz's team -- or whether Fitz has a mole on the inside of the WH? (Is that you, Karl, trying to save your hide again by pointing fingers at your fellow employees?)

Additionally, Fitz says at the top of page 5, Exhibit C, that they are working on the CIA referral and will likely hand over a copy to Team Libby in discovery. (Ooooh, and wouldn't that make for a good read? I suppose it is too much to hope that the initial CIA referral would become public, but a girl can dream.)

Fitz also refers to what is called 404(b) evidence (evidence of "other crimes") -- there is a long legal explanation for this, which I'll detail in a separate post later, but suffice it to say Fitz dangles out an intriguing tidbit: Libby disclosed information regarding the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), and was authorized to do so by his superiors, according to Libby's own testimony to the Grand Jury. Fitz goes on to say that the NIE information was a basis for his discussion with Judy Miller on July 8, and that it is "inextricably intertwined with the narrative of events of Spring 2003," as Libby's testimony makes plain. Well, isn't that juicy?

Finally, we get to the big reveal of the day. As a sort of throwaway line, Fitz tosses out a live grenade to flush the game out of the underbrush, if there is any to be found.
We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed. In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system. (Ex. C, p. 6)
I have to say, I have no idea what that means in terms of the technical ramifications because I don't know what is normally archived or how it is done in the WH computer system. But I will say this: John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzalez and Andy Card have a chunk of hours to answer for between when the WH was notified and when they officially locked the system down from staff. And the fact that Fitz is announcing that he knows this in a letter this bluntly says he's holding one hell of a hand that we can't see.

It's going to be a fun few days to see whether anyone gets flushed out of the underbrush. Myself, I'd like to see a big, fat skunk get his hands caught in the cookie cache.

(The lovely photograph via Mayhem and Chaos Photoblog. Hope they don't mind me using the image, it was so lovely that it made me want to curl up with a cuppa tea and a pile of reading material.)

UPDATE: Raw Story has put up the Exhibit C 1/23/06 letter here (Download a PDF). (Hat tip to Valley Girl.) So now you can read it in its entirety.

UPDATE #2: Georgia10 has more at DKos.


Thanks Ted

Just got off a post-Alito conference call with Ted Kennedy. I told him how much everyone appreciated the fact that he was willing to step forward and provide some leadership on a cause that we were all so passionate about. He thanked everyone for the great job they did showing up, and wanted us all to know that our faxes, phone calls and emails made a mark. He said Alito himself certainly noticed, and now he knows we'll be watching.

I also asked him if he'd heard about Glenn Greenwald's work on the illegal NSA wiretaps that has had such an impact of late, and arrangements were made to get Glenn's information to him. I'm sure we can all expect much howling from the right to the effect that all the Democrats who dare to question Gonzo are unpatriotic, so think about brewing up some inspired LTEs and phoning in to your favorite radio bloviators to spread the good word that this isn't a partisan issue -- many conservatives are also extremely alarmed about what's going on.

It's high time the Malkins of the world were shouted down, don't you think?

Update: Stephen Parrish reminds us that Grover Norquist himself opposes Bush's wiretap program: "You need someone who is a Republican to call the president on this," he said.


NARAL and Coathanger Chafee

I've always been a big NARAL supporter, and I recognize that they do their job under tremendous and constant pressure from the right. Many Democrats are abandoning pro-choice values in order to seem less "liberal" despite the fact that most Americans want abortion to remain legal, which can only be attributed to the money and organization devoted to fanatically opposing their efforts. I believe in NARAL, I think they do valiant work. I give them money, I'm a feminist and I won't vote for a candidate who is anti-choice, period.

But something went horribly wrong with the Samuel Alito nomination:
"NARAL Pro-Choice America surpassed its fundraising goals in the hours following Justice O'Connor's announcement," said President Nancy Keenan. Donors "are deeply concerned that President Bush will choose to further divide this nation by nominating a radical right-wing conservative."

Moderation is not the tone of fundraising appeals in the nomination contest. "This is big, people. Huge," NARAL wrote to supporters. "It's true, there is no freedom without choice. Without choice, we are not free."
Despite the fact that NARAL was whipping their membership into a checkwriting frenzy over the matter and money came flooding into their coffers for the express purpose of fighting this particular battle, NARAL waged no aggressive campaign against his confirmation. Over at MyDD, Matt Stoller gives an idea of what a true campaign would have looked like, but we saw nothing like that. Perhaps they thought the battle was already lost and not worth fighting, but they don't appear to have been telling people this when they were pumping them for money.

The fact is that Alito's elevation to the Supreme Court tips the balance inexorably toward the right, and yet in response NARAL sat on the war chest they had collected for the purpose of opposing him and did next to nothing. I was among those who defended NARAL's decision to support Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island over his anti-choice opponent. I thought it was a bold strategy to tell timid Democrats who were afraid to commit themselves to the pro-choice cause that they better think twice about sucking up to the fundies. I don't think NARAL owes anything to the Democratic Party if the party does not support them, and it certainly owes nothing to Democratic candidates who refuse to defend their cause. But when the cloture vote on Samuel Alito was taken and Lincoln Chafee knuckled under and sided with the forced birth brigade, it was high time for NARAL to cut Chafee loose.

NARAL's Bush v. Choice website made no mention of the cloture vote on Monday, surely the biggest blow to the pro-choice cause in this country since Roe v. Wade was decided 33 years ago. Yesterday after the final vote there was a weak statement by NARAL president Nancy Keenan who said:
This persistent assault on our freedoms will not go unnoticed by an American public that overwhelmingly supports a woman's right to privacy as guaranteed by Roe. We intend to mobilize these voters to elect a president and senators who will defend and protect our personal freedom and individual liberties.
They did not bring up the fact that they continue to endorse a man who just voted against the protection of those liberties over two other pro-choice candidates who would not have done so.

Their readers, however, noticed. From Katha Pollitt, in their comments:
NARAL can start by NOT endorsing pro-choice Republicans. As the Alito roll call shows, when their party calls, they obey. Even supposedly feminist "republican for choice' Olympia Snowe. If the pro-choice republicans had backed the filibuster, Alito would not have been confirmed today. Whatever their private beliefs about women's reproductive rights, they are soldiers in the wrong army.
(Note: Pollitt's comment has now been scrubbed from the website but I contacted her and she confirmed that she did, in fact, leave it.)

Chafee's opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse, sent him a letter challenging him on the Alito nomination:
In 2000, you pledged that you would never support a Supreme Court nominee who would put a woman's right to choose at risk. You failed to honor that pledge by supporting John Roberts. Now, the Alito nomination presents an even greater threat -- and it's clear that keeping this nominee off the Court will demand not only a simple "No"” vote, but a filibuster as well.

As I travel throughout Rhode Island, I have heard the extreme concern that people have about the direction that President Bush and your Republican leadership are taking this country. This nominee is likely to tilt a narrowly divided Supreme Court in an extremely conservative direction. I hope that you will support a filibuster in order to keep your promise to the people of Rhode Island.
Instead of holding his feet to the fire, NARAL allowed Chafee to slither out by voting in the final vote against Alito, knowing full well this was a hollow gesture. Chafee pledged his loyalty to the Gang of 14 who collectively blocked the filibuster and effectively guaranteed Alito's confirmation. When the true test of loyalty presented itself, he chose to abandon his pro-choice friends and knuckle under to the Bush junta.

There are three more years of George Bush's presidency left to go, and the chances that another of the aging Supreme Court justices could vacate a seat is not remote. One of the best hopes of putting a pro-choice Senator in office who would not bend to fundamental extremists the next time around is in the progressive state of Rhode Island, and yet NARAL will not even address the concerns of its own membership on this front.

I tried to contact them to discuss this. I was told that a cloture vote would "probably not have a significant impact on an endorsement." (Since that time their PR person who handles blogs has contacted me to say she is not able to speak for NARAL. I asked to be put in contact with someone who could speak for them, but nobody has contacted me.)

NARAL does much good work on behalf of the pro-choice movement, but their endorsement of Lincoln Chafee only serves to guarantee that people who will vote to confirm anti-choice judges will retain their majority in the Senate. Women bloggers like Roxanne and Amanda have been calling for NARAL to cut bait with Chafee since he supported John Roberts, but to no avail. As long as they continue to cling to this disastrous policy they are not doing their job as stewards of the money that hard working people across the country entrust them with to carry on the battle on behalf of reproductive rights.

NARAL needs to withdraw their support of Lincoln Chaffe, an endorsement that could tip an extremely tight race, and they need to do it now. To do anything else is to betray their own cause and undermine the very woman they purport to defend.

You can contact NARAL and tell them your membership is contingent on withdrawing their support for Lincoln Chafee and other Republican candidates willing to sacrifice the pro-choice cause in their loyalty to the GOP agenda:

NARAL Pro-Choice America
1156 15th Street, NW Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005

Main Number: 202.973.3000
Main Fax: 202.973.3096
feedback form

You can also contact these major donors who give significant funding to NARAL and let them know there are serious questions about this endorsement that NARAL refuses to address:

George Soros
Open Society Institute
400 West 59th Street
New York, NY 10019, U.S.A.
Tel (212)548-0600
Fax (212)548-4600
contact form

(no longer contributing to NARAL)

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation
300 Second Street
Tel (650) 948-7658
Fax (650) 917-0546

Michael Finley, President
Turner Foundation, Inc.
133 Luckie Street NW
2nd Floor
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: 404-681-9900
Fax: 404-681-0172

Free fax service here.

And for those who have emailed me expressing anger about the NARAL donation envelopes they continue to receive in the mail, I suggest you write NO MORE MONEY FOR COATHANGER CHAFEE across the back and return them.


Not So Free Speech

In the kabuki theatre world of GWB Productions, there is good speech (that which works with the stage direction of the event) and bad speech (that which does not make for good camera shots and must, therefore, be shut down).

You will no doubt recall last year's instance of free speech theatre, the Purple Finger Brigade. (Not to be confused with the Blue Man Group, which is a whole 'nother level of entertainment.)

At last night's State of the Union, there were two instances of free speech being shut down. Not because either person involved was being loud, or obnoxious, or even saying anything out loud. But simply because both women wore shirts with printing on them which stated how they felt at the moment -- and both were ejected from the State of the Union because their messages -- from opposite ends of the political divide -- would not look good on television for the Preznit's night in the spotlight.

It turns out Cindy Sheehan wasn't the only woman thrown out of the speech last night:
Sheehan, a prominent foe of the Iraq war, was ejected just minutes before the State of the Union speech for wearing a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan. She'd been there as the guest of California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey.

Also removed from the gallery was Beverly Young. She's the wife of Republican Congressman Bill Young of Florida, who chairs the House defense appropriations panel. Her own shirt wasn't anti-war -- it read, "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom."

She tells the St. Petersburg Times she was sitting about six rows from Laura Bush when she was asked to leave, and that she then argued with police in the hallway. She says they told her they considered her shirt a "protest," and that she responded, "Then you are an idiot." And she says they told her she was being treated the same as Sheehan.

As for Sheehan, she writes today that she plans to file a First Amendment lawsuit.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, can they just throw you out of the gallery like that? Well, I mistakenly said yes last night, remembering the signs that I had seen posted around the Hill the last few times I had been to watch proceedings regarding vocal and other protests, and a family incident that occurred when I was a kid and my mother embarassed me to no end by trying to get Sen. Byrd's attention to let him know folks from WV were in the gallery -- but I was unaware of a not-too-distant ruling that Glenn Greenwald graciously reminded me of from a 1997 case on free speech (that's why he's the 1st Amendment expert!),Bynum v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd. (Dist. D.C. 1997) (PDF).

Glenn has a superb post outlining why the arrest of Ms. Sheehan was not kosher, to put it mildly, and presumably why the ejection of Beverly Young was equally egregious. I recommend a read if you are interested in this. And you ought to be -- in a nation where the President works this hard to stifle dissent and to so tightly control his surroundings that a supporter wearing a shirt which contained an unapproved message was ejected, too -- well, that just smacks of a whole lot of things that this nation has long stood against, now doesn't it?

In Beverly Young's case, her crime was sitting within camera range of Laura Bush in a shirt which wasn't PR friendly for the Preznit's message. Wonder how she and her Republican pals feel about free speech in America this morning? Oh, that pesky Presidential PR machine, gets in the way of so many little things like speaking your mind or having your own opinion or...oh, exercising your rights as a citizen and having civil liberties under the First Amendment.

In George Bush's America, your speech is free only when it doesn't inconvenience the President.

NOTE: From Urban Pirate in the comments:
Only Sheehan was physically removed and arrested, however. Beverly Young was simply escorted out.
I meant to make this point clearly, and failed to do so. Didn't want this to get lost in the analysis.