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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 12, 2005

WaPo characterization of Iraq buildup

I find this very interesting. It's page W12, so it's not on the front of the paper, but it's top left of the front page of the website right now. A big picture with Rumsfeld small on the right side of the frame, a title "Wrestling with History", and then this quote, "Sometimes you have to fight the war you have, not the war you wish you had. – David Von Drehle" That's it.

And it is a slam piece on Rumsfeld. It's big, but if you read the first page, you'll get the idea.

Obviously, with last night/today's piece questioning the President's speech and the veracity of the attacks on the Democratic criticism, and now this article, the WaPo has decided that they are not going to accept the administration's version of events without examinination.

Reading it again, I do mean a slam piece. I would expect that somebody on the WaPo editorial staff will be getting a call about this one.

UPDATE: I guess that call came in, because this story, which appeared last night, was dated for today's paper, and was placed so prominently, has now completely disappeared from the front page. It has now been bumped down to a smaller picture, a friendlier headline, and a less prominent position on the "Politics" page.

Oh, you gotta read it now.

Franklin/AIPAC spy ring update.

A pretty interesting article in the WaPo this morning on the Franklin/AIPAC spy ring. It has a few new details if you're following this story. But most interesting to me was this paragraph:

Franklin also gave information to "60 Minutes" producer Richard Bonin about influential Iraqi activist Ahmed Chalabi that led to this Lesley Stahl report on CBS on May 20, 2004: "U.S. officials at a senior level told us today that they have evidence Chalabi has been passing highly classified U.S. intelligence to Iran."

Franklin's defense has been that what he was doing, he was doing because he loved his country and wanted to alter policy towards Iran. What I find interesting about the incident above, is that by publicly outing Chalabi, who or what group is Franklin burning? According to the logic of his defense, those that were working with Chalabi were not working for the best interests of our country in his opinion. (you know the answer)

Quite frankly, I don't know if I buy this completely. Am I to believe that the Franklin/AIPAC spy ring was running independently of the Veep's operations, and that the top officials at AIPAC were working against Cheney? That doesn't sound right to me, but I don't know.

Read it for yourself and make up your own mind. If you come up with a better version than this, put it in the comments, I would be very interested in other views here.

Also, Leslie Stahl appears to be all mixed up in this. She broke two stories sourced from the Franklin/Rosen/Weissman trio, and then, also, broke the story about the investigation of them. Like Judy Miller with Libby, I would be really curious to know the real story here.

The flawed logic of Bush's Veteran's Day defense

I just wanted to make note of this paragraph in Bush's speech yesterday.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

Look at the construction of this, it is rhetorically brilliant. He frames the accusation "we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people," and then offers as defense for that, the Silverman Robb committee's finding that, "found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments."

Look at the structure of this, "I'm accused of lying, but even my critics know that I've been proven innocent of intimidation." This is not a logicially sound defense.

Buried deep within the speech, passed over rather quickly, with no one able to question the "slipperyness" of it. Pretty good, pretty smart.

Update: The WaPo A01 analysis piece this morning examines this rhetorically strong, but logically weak, point, as well as a few others, in a more oblique way.

President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

Neither assertion is wholly accurate.

Update: Just a little Headline vs. Headline. Same event, take your pick.

AP: Bush Forcefully Attacks Iraq Critics


AFP: Embattled Bush defends case for Iraq war

this is pretty funny from sadlyno showing how much of that speech was cobbled together from other speeches.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Italy seeks extradition of CIA agents

This is regarding the "extraordinary rendition" of Abu Omar who was snatched off the street in Milan by CIA personnel. I'm really surprised that this hasn't just gone away like the similar case in Germany.

Prosecutors have requested Italy seek the extradition of 22 suspected CIA agents over the kidnapping of a terrorism suspect, grabbed off a street in 2003 and taken abroad, a judicial source in Italy said on Friday.

The request was delivered to Justice Minister Roberto Castelli.

The minister just returned from Washington, where he discussed the issue with U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, a U.S. justice department official in Washington D.C. said.

Oh, I would have loved to be a fly on that wall.

The Italians forged the report of the Niger forgeries?

This based solely on Josh Marshall right now, but what he's saying is that the Italians went in and corrected the bad information, that would mark the Niger forgeries as forgeries, in a report they sent to the US well ahead of the originals. In other words, they were aware of the problems with the documents that the IAEA used to debunk them in "two or three hours with Google," BUT, they corrected them in a report they sent to the US to make them seem more credible.

Not very well described, but if you've been keeping up with all this, look here.

And Josh is pretty good about his "More Soon"'s, so if you're tight on this story, check him throughout the rest of the day here.

Plame Gossip - For Rove, It still goes on

Just an interesting tidbit today,

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald delayed a decision on whether to seek criminal charges against Karl Rove in large part because he wants to determine whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, can provide information on Rove's role in the CIA leak case, according to attorneys involved in the investigation.

Even if Fitzgerald concludes in the near future that he does not have sufficient evidence to charge Rove, the special prosecutor would not rule out bringing charges at a later date and would not finish his inquiry on Rove until he hears whatever information Libby might provide -- either incriminating or exculpatory -- on Rove's role, the sources said. .....

In recent days, Fitzgerald has reinterviewed several witnesses with knowledge of Rove's role in the Plame leak and talked with attorneys of other potential witnesses.

So, Murray Waas is saying that Rove will not be out of Legal jeopardy until the Libby trial is over. And from the last paragraph, it doesn't sound like Fitzgerald's just sitting on his hands waiting.

And, from the same article, Rove's defense is Libby told me.

Sources close to Rove say that Libby very likely misled Rove when he told Rove that he had learned about Plame from journalists. Investigators also want to learn from Libby whether that's true, or whether Libby told Rove a different source for the Plame information -- specifically other government officials with access to highly classified information.

Think Libby would take an extra few years to protect Rove? Think he can hold together the lies on the stand?

Looks like Plame Gossip just got re-signed for a couple more seasons.

Confirmation of White Phosphorus use as anti-personnel in Fallujah?

I've intentionally stayed out of the storyline regarding the use of "Chemical Weapons" in Fallujah. The Army officially denies using white phosphorus, but admits using the MK-77 firebombs (a newer cousin to napalm.) This admission is probably because the British Sunday Mirror already confirmed the use of MK-77 some time back(although that article is now curiously gone. Curious because with the current DoD admissions it was right.)

The RAI documentary showed some horrible images which it claimed were the result of white phosphorus burns, noting that the telling characteristic of this is that the skin has burned away, but the clothes remain intact.

Frankly, I don't know enough of the technical information about these weapons to discern the difference.

(There were some anecdotal reports from unembedded reporters of US Army Engineers coming in after Fallujah with heavy equipment to scrape off topsoil which was then trucked away, but, all of them were second hand and as we've heard no more of this, I find it hard to give it too much creedence.)

BUT. Today reading I was reading a piece by Mark Rothschild on Antiwar.com and he has come across this mention in the US Army publication Field Artillery magazine which describes artillery tactics used in Fallujah. ("The Fight for Fallujah" March-April 2005 edition)

"a. Range of Munitions. The munitions at our disposal gave us excellent flexibility. …

"b. White Phosphorus. WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions at two breeches and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes when we could not get effects on them with HE [high explosive]. We fired 'shake and bake' missions at the insurgents, using WP to flush them out and HE to take them out."

(unfortunately, the link is to a PDF version of the article. this citation is on the fifth page of the article (page 26))

Again, not being an expert, I don't know the terminology of "'shake and bake' missions," but to me this sounds like the use white phosphorus directly on people. I certainly don't believe they were targeting civilians, but whether that use carried over and affected civilians I don't know. But this certainly stands in direct conflict with the DoD statement.

No answers, just information.

O'Reilly encourages Al Qaeda to attack San Francisco

This sounds like a satire piece from The Colbert Report, but it's not. O'Reilly called for Al Queda to attack San Francisco. I'm not kidding. Take a look.

By the way, if you haven't seen The Colbert Report, set the Tivo/DVR. It's on Comedy Central after The Daily Show, and although a little uneven, I've laughed out loud during every show so far. Worth a look.

The revolt of the Northeastern Republicans

Interesting. Seems to me that almost all of the "moderate Republicans" who stopped the two pieces of legislation yesterday are from the Northeast and New England, not the South or West. (Snowe - Maine, Bass - N.H, Gilchrest - Md, Ehlers - Mich.)

Not a 100% proposition, but interesting.

"I did not have sexual realtions with the WMD."

U.S. President George W. Bush will use a Veterans Day speech on Friday to fight back against Democratic charges that the White House misused intelligence to gain support for the Iraq war, administration officials said.

"The president is going to directly take on the false attacks that Democratic leaders have been making," a senior administration official told Reuters.

In other words,

"I did not have sexual realtions with the WMD."

Oh, and also in this article, Stephen Hadley, who met with Sismi's Pollari, and appears to be hip deep in the Niger Forgeries, said this:

"I point out that some of the critics today believed, themselves, in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They stated that belief, and they voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq," said Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, on Thursday.

"For those critics to ignore their own past statements, exposes the hollowness of their current attacks," he said.

So, Mr. Hadley, you are attacking your critics for believing the intelligence you were manipulating. Interesting defense.

And, by the way, the White House seems to be back to "misrepresenting" without shame. It worked when everybody trusted them; I'll be very curious to see how it works out now with Bush's poll numbers where they are, especially the trust and integrity numbers.


Campaigning with Nixon

To convince me that everything I'm reading about Bush being asked not to help Republican candidates in their election campaigns is wrong, the Moonie Times helpfully publishes an article sourced almost solely from Scott McClellan. Prominently displayed on Drudge.

The phones are ringing off the hook at the White House political affairs office with Republican candidates calling to ask President Bush to appear at fundraisers and campaign events.

Despite a consensus among political pundits and Democrats that Mr. Bush was chiefly responsible for the Virginia gubernatorial loss Tuesday, the White House said yesterday that candidates from across the country continue to seek presidential appearances.

If they're mounting a spin campaign, and the best mouthpiece they can find is the Whitehouse press spokesman rather than twenty candidates who are seeking such help, it must be pretty true.

Delay admitted it?

A page A01 WaPo summary article says that Delay admitted the second half of the illegal transfers during a plea negotiation.

At that session, DeLay acknowledged that in 2002 he was informed about and expressed his support for transfers of $190,000 in mostly corporate funds from his Texas political action committee to an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington and then back to Texas, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named. ....

Also in this article,

The disclosures also show the potential weakness of the Travis County prosecutor's case. Sources said it is based so far almost entirely on DeLay's admissions to Earle and his subsequent statements in media interviews about the money transfers. To date, Earle has not gathered compelling testimony from other witnesses or found documents that portray DeLay as the mastermind of the $190,000 transfers, they added.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Couple of interesting Plame notes.

Hardball has been doing a series this week ostensibly on bad WMD intel, but really more of a long running slam on the VP's office. (I know they're kind of one in the same but he's gone pretty far afield.) Anyhow, throughout the week he has been stating, less and less obliquely his theory of the crime in the Plame leak and Libby indictment. His bottom line seems to be the theory in the Gellman article that the vice president directed it.

On July 12, the day Cheney and Libby flew together from Norfolk, the vice president instructed his aide to alert reporters of an attack launched that morning on Wilson's credibility by Fleischer, according to a well-placed source.

Libby talked to Miller and Cooper. That same day, another administration official who has not been identified publicly returned a call from Walter Pincus of The Post. He "veered off the precise matter we were discussing" and told him that Wilson's trip was a "boondoggle" set up by Plame, Pincus has written in Nieman Reports.

The indictment says this(notice no reference to Cheney specifically)

22. On or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY flew with the Vice President and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, LIBBY discused with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

Also, please remember from the Fitzgerald press conference, the whole long overextended analogy of the baseball umpire. My theory is that Fitzgerald knows the first version of this took place, but because of Libby's perjury, he can only prove the second. And he's pissed about it. I think that is why he is attempting to turn two counts of perjury into thirty years jail time. Because in the analogy, Libby was the pitcher, but Cheney was the manager who called the pitch. The only way to nail the manager is to get someone to tell you about it.

Also, Firedoglake(Jane Hamsher,) who has been excellent on Plame, made an interesting comment tonight:

(A NYTimes sorce)They believe Fitzgerald may be pursuing "a new line of inquiry" regarding Rove. Whatever Rove produced at the last minute "may have fallen under the heading of 'more difficult to prove intent to mislead.'" But whatever happens, the Hadley memo is going to play a "serious part of any indictment," and Fitzgerald's investigation may be "longer rather than shorter."

Regarding Rove, just remember, the indictment won't just suddenly fall from the sky. If Fitzgerald intends to indict Rove, he will have to reintroduce the evidence to a new grand jury. If that happens, there will be a whole lot of warning.

And, no, I don't think Libby's gonna flip unless they can throw something else on him.

More disgusting Chalabi

I just don't believe this. Am I the only one that finds this whole farce tragic? Chalabi is under investigation for telling the Iranians which of the internal communications we were able to monitor at the SAME TIME THEY WERE TRYING TO HIDE NUCLEAR DEVELOPMENT. And now he's meeting with everybody but Bush himself! He supplied a large portion of the bad intel that was used to sell the American people on invading Iraq. And now he has the gall to do this:

Chalabi planned to visit wounded U.S. soldiers from the Iraq war at Walter Reed Army Hospital, an organizer said. Both men have held separate meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mahdi is to meet Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday.

Chalabi sees Cheney and other officials next week.

For God's sake, whatever happened to right and wrong? How can anybody authorize this guy to visit Walter Reed?

The ice has broken

It appears that today, the Republican block has just shattered.

In the house, the ANWR oil drilling provison was dropped from the budget. This was one of Bush's reelection platform planks, wasn't it?

In the Senate Finance Committee, the Republican leadership "postponed debate" because it was clear that they did not have the votes to move the $78 billion tax cut package out of the committee. Olympia Snowe was the holdout citing the budget defecit. Wasn't extending and making permanent these tax cuts part of Bush's reelection platform as well?

If you think, like I did, those elections on Tuesday didn't have huge significance, watch the moderates run from the Bush agenda. I was wrong.

My first, gut level interpretation is that the Olympia Snowe's of the world watched that Virginia race closely, and have determined that there is nothing the Bush admin can offer to help their reelection bids. And with Frist so obviously wounded, and Delay in a sinking ship, the rank and file Republicans have broken ranks. There is no longer any benefit to being a party loyalist, in fact, it may be a detriment to those in close races or moderate districts.

Couple that with the Presidential hopefuls who have already broken from the herd, (I'm looking at you McCain and Hagel) and what we have here is an army who has broken ranks in the face of the enemy. A timid, noodle-armed, uncoordinated, democratic enemy.

Actually, I think what has struck fear into these moderates is not the Democrats, although their efforts to crank up the pressure have been hugely successful, but instead the realization that a majority of Americans have turned against them.

Oh, and just to assure you that not all republicans have broken from their base,

Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, had said that he would not vote for the measure unless ANWR drilling is included, and House Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., also opposed removing the provision.

Joe Barton has so far recieved $31,500 dollars from oil related PAC's this election cycle, the top recipient. In the last election cycle, Joe Barton received $45,000, the third top recipient. (Source: Political Moneyline)

I'm never amazed that these guys are crooked, but I'm always amazed at how little it actually costs to buy them. I mean, $76,500 really isn't that much money to get a committee chairman.

UPDATE: And even another one.

Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., says Bush and Vice President Cheney have lobbied House Republicans to oppose the amendment, but Blunt stopped short of saying he would urge members to vote no. "It's hard to imagine it wouldn't get a lot of votes," he said. In the Senate, the torture ban was approved 90-9. ....

In the House, the ban is backed by another Vietnam combat veteran, Rep. John Murtha. The conservative Pennsylvania Democrat wrote in a letter to House colleagues that revelations about abuses of prisoners in U.S. custody are "degrading our society and its political and legal systems." He says he has the votes - including some Republicans - to win House approval of McCain's amendment.


This is brilliant.

This is an absolutely brilliant exploration of Al Qaeda's current political strategy to win the "hearts and minds" battle. It's really too complex to excerpt adequately, so read it here.

It's only this big.

Ran across this reference again, and figured it might be time to bring it back up. This is from a speech Rove gave somewhere years ago, and, yes, it is true.

“As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved politics,” Rove said. “At the age of 9 I put a Nixon bumper sticker on the wire basket in the front of my bicycle. Unfortunately the little Catholic girl down the street was a couple years and about 20 pounds on me. She was for Kennedy.

“When she saw me on my bike with my bumper sticker for Nixon, she put me on the ground, flattened me out and gave me a bloody nose,” he said.

“Despite that beating I never lost interest in politics.”

Everytime I read this, I travel down the "What if Hitler had been a better painter?" or "What if Castro had a better breaking pitch" line of thought. How the chain of events might have been altered if Rove had not suffered this Freudian castration?

And, Karl, you can beat on Joe Wilson all you want, but you'll still never erase that memory.

Plame gossip - Fitzgerald still investigating.

Kinda weird sourcing for this, but I thought it was interesting enough to merit notice.

WASHINGTON D.C. – Filipino American Susan Ralston, chief of-staff to presidential adviser Karl Rove, is one of nearly two dozen White House officials – including President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney – believed to have knowledge about the outing of Central Intelligence Agency operative agent Valerie Plame.

Ralston, Rove’s right-hand man, is scheduled to appear again before Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald who is investigating the circumstances surrounding the leak of Plame’s identity in the media.....

Ralston appears to be a person of critical interest in the investigation, just like her boss Rove.....

At 37, Ralston, a graduate of management, had worked as assistant to Jack Abramoff, a powerfully connected lobbyist, at the Preston Gates and Ellis and later at Greenberg Taurig law and lobbying firms. Story had it that Abramoff, indicted on alleged corruption charges involving, among others, former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay, had offered Ralston to Rove when the latter was looking for an efficient and trusted assistant.

I think the key here is that Fitzgerald is not simply "tying up loose ends" as several White House defenders have suggested.

UPDATE: GOOD source says this story is incorrect. Their wording was that the idea of Ralston going before the grand jury is incorrect. The bad sourcing was an issue, sorry. I've tried pretty hard to put the Plame stuff up with proper skepticism, but as this did not seem particularly inflammatory, I didn't think it was BS. But, let me point out that both could still be true. Technically, this article says she was scheduled to appear before Fitzgerald, not a grand jury. But if I were you, I would discount the whole thing.

Sorry, again. Mike

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What's an Iraqi life worth?

HAMEED Hassan sat in the remains of his car, next to his dead wife, and watched his four-year-old son begin to bleed to death. .....

Under the US "consequence management" system, there is a maximum payout of $2,500 per claim. A dead wife and a dead son are equivalent to two claims; meaning Hassan is in line to receive a total of $5,000 in cash.

NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll

International Convention Against Torture

From the Nelson Report, from Josh Marshall. In regards to the International Convention Against Torture:

We checked with a highly informed/involved former State Department source. His comments: “...in 1988 when John Whitehead signed the Convention in New York, and then later, when we ratified it, we enacted domestic laws where necessary to make it ‘the law of the land.’ When we made our report, for example, as required by the Convention we had this to say to the UN, copy to the Senate:

‘Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offense under the law of the United States. No official of the government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. US law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a ‘state of public emergency’) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.’ (Report of the United States to the UN Committee against Torture, October 15, 1999, UN Doc. CAT/C/28/Add.5, February 9, 2000, para. 6.)

So Chalabi came to visit Snow, right?

So Ahmad Chalabi came to Washington at the invitation of Treasury Sec. John Snow, Right? Only one problem.....

U.S. officials said Chalabi came to Washington at this time because he was invited by Treasury Secretary John Snow. But Snow is traveling in India all week.

Also in this article,

Chalabi is also due to meet Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley while in Washington.

Speaking to reporters after the half-hour session with Rice, Chalabi denied giving U.S. officials false intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and said the focus should be on the future.

"It's always more important to look to the future than to the past," he said.

I really don't know what to say anymore. What a sham! I mean, how crooked is Cheney? He set up a meeting, using Snow as the dropout, with a man who allegedly compromised the US ability to monitor nuclear developments in Iran. An intel compromise that Condi Rice promised to investigate! He's the VP for chrissakes!

Maybe he can resign and manage Scooter Libby's defense fund.

A few bright spots from the elections yesterday.

And Sini found something good.

Marth Reeves, yes that Martha Reeves, was elected to the Detroit City Council yesterday.

Tell me you're not singing a song right now.

Also, read the post below that one.

Dogging the governor, as it has for months, was the California Nurses Assn., which organized a luau at the Trader Vic's in the same hotel. As Schwarzenegger's defeats mounted, giddy nurses formed a conga line and danced around the room, singing, "We're the mighty, mighty nurses."

The Politcization of Crime

The problem isn't the public perception, you nimrods, the problem is that you lied to the American public to start a war of choice. Also, I would question the validity of a defense saying "the democrats did it, too" when you were the main source for their statements.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top White House officials say they're developing a "campaign-style" strategy in response to increasing Democratic allegations that the Bush administration twisted intelligence to make its case for war. ....

The officials say they plan to repeatedly make the point -- as they did during the 2004 campaign -- that pre-war intelligence was faulty, it was not manipulated and everyone was working off the same intelligence. ....

One senior official said Cheney would not participate in the White House response, despite that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has accused the vice president of being a key offender in manipulating intelligence.

If you have the facts, argue the facts. If you don't have the facts, argue the law. If you don't have the law, go after their heartstrings. (Pardon the paraphrase, I haven't run across this in a while. If there's a lawyer out there, correct me.)

Also notice the increasing attempts to go after Joe Wilson. This, of course, is not being coordinated by Bush personnel, like the Swift boat campaign, but merely a conviently timed public outpouring.

Feith to be investigated by DoD IG

I'm not sure how I feel about this. About a year ago, in my little circle of emailers that preceded this blog, I ran an informal pool as to whom/what group in this administration would be the first to go down. The Libby indictment pipped my favorite, the Perle/Feith/Wolfowitz group at DoD, but the misrepresentations of the OSP are still out there, and, now, look to be investigated. (notice, however, that Feith, Perle, and Wolfowitz are all no longer with the administration.)

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's inspector general has been asked to investigate the prewar intelligence role of a planning office headed by former U.S. defense policy chief Douglas Feith, a main architect of the Iraq war, officials said on Tuesday. ....

Democrats on the committee including the vice chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia, opposed Roberts' action and warned the move could delay the Senate investigation of Feith's office by up to a year. (Past the midterm elections - mike)

However, this would be investigated in the DoD which would keep all of the investigative processes quiet. As well, although the IG is technically independent, I would question their willingness to really dig into crimes committed by their past, present, and, possibly, future, bosses. This would also serve to allow Sen. Roberts to kick the responsibility for the Phase II investigation out of his office and down the road a bit.

Little reported election items

In San Francisco,

The military recruitment initiative also won with 60 percent in favor and 40 percent against.
Measure I, dubbed "College Not Combat," opposes the presence of military recruiters at public high schools and colleges. However, it would not ban the armed forces from seeking enlistees at city campuses, since that would put schools at risk of losing federal funding.
Instead, Proposition I encourages city officials and university administrators to exclude recruiters and create scholarships and training programs that would reduce the military's appeal to young adults.

And more reported, but still significant,

In Dover, Pennsylvania, where a court battle is raging over the teaching of an "intelligent design" alternative to evolution, voters ousted eight of the nine incumbents on the local school board.

Replacing them will be a slate of board members who call for removing intelligent design, which they say is a version of creationism and brings religion into the teaching of science, from the curriculum.

And as definition, from elsewhere:

It should be noted that the incoming board members from the Dover CARES campaign have a platform plank saying that “intelligent design” will be taught in Dover public schools. However, the venue of such instruction will not be the science classrooms, where it was out-of-place, but rather an elective course on comparative religion, where it fits perfectly.

(The guy who came in last was the primary pusher of "Intelligent Design")

No agreement on "Phase II" of WMD investigation

This is a really weird article from Dana Milbank, WaPo. But there's a lot of juice in it. Remember that Sen. Roberts is head of the intel committee that would do the investigations Frist and Hastert called for yesterday.

Now comes a new controversy: demands by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) that the intelligence committees probe a Washington Post story on secret CIA prisons for terrorists. Frist did not inform Roberts before going public with a letter addressed to Roberts and his House counterpart.

"I heard about it on CNN," the chairman told reporters after lunch. Noticing that his questioners were quoting from the letter, Roberts said: "I've not received that. . . . If you have the letter, I'd like to see it." .....

The six did not agree on the key disputes: how long a probe would take, which administration officials would be interviewed, and how to handle the activities of former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith's office. They punted the questions to a meeting of the full committee scheduled for this morning. And, by all accounts, it was tense.

Bond ducked out mid-meeting, reporting, sardonically, that they were "having a lot of fun." The national intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, paid the senators an unannounced visit -- then departed within a minute, as aides insisted the drop-by was coincidental. ....

Rockefeller reached out for a handshake. Roberts seemed baffled by the gesture and, after a painful pause, took the ranking Democrat's hand. Before Rockefeller could make his statement, Roberts turned and walked away. "There's no question that there are several areas where there are substantial disagreements," Rockefeller allowed. ....

Defending the military's treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, he added: "There are more senators and congressmen with ethics cases pending than there are problems with interrogation right now in Gitmo."That argument might not earn him favor with his colleagues.

I know this is kind of insider/gossipy, but I just couldn't turn away.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

So torture is aginst US law.

Wow. Imagine that.

A classified report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials say. ....

In his report, Mr. Helgerson also raised concern about whether the use of the techniques could expose agency officers to legal liability, the officials said. They said the report expressed skepticism about the Bush administration view that any ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under the treaty does not apply to C.I.A. interrogations because they take place overseas on people who are not citizens of the
United States.

This article also confirms that Khalid Sheikh "Mohammed is among those believed to have been subjected to waterboarding, in which a prisoner is strapped to a board and made to believe that he is drowning." So, Dana Priest was telling us something. (third paragraph.) .

That's one hoppin' mad reporter.

It always bothers me that we wait until someone dies to pay tribute to them. So, this evening, I'm gonna pay tribute to Helen Thomas. Put aside for a moment all the ground she broke for women in reporting, and just admire her fearlessness. She's gone after every administration since Kennedy and still refuses to let her question go unanswered. My favorite quote from her, "dissent is patriotic."

The Bush administration press office has taken away her chair in the front row, and moved her to the back of the press briefing room, next to the reporter from India. But Helen does not quit.

If you too admire the irascibility of a tough woman, take a minute to read this transcription of today's gaggle. I admire fearlessness, and Helen Thomas is fearless. And make sure to catch the last line. Make 'em answer, Helen.

UPDATE: Got this story from Marisa in the comments.

I recently saw Helen at a party at the National Press Club and she was as fierce as ever.

I introduced her to one of my co-workers, who asked her if she was really as hostile to this administration as she appears. She promptly replied, "I'm not hostile to them, I just think they're a bunch of lying assholes and someone ought to call them on it."
Also, they have the video up at Crooks and Liars.

Aim Away from Face.

According to a CNN reporter just a minute ago, Trent Lott who hates both the Bush admin and Frist, said that he thinks the leak that the Republicans are investigating, see below, came from a Republican Senator who was present in the classified meeting Cheney held trying to stop the McCain amendment.

Political Investigation Rule #1: When holding a political investigation intended to damage your political opponents, check with your people first.

Funny as hell.

Republicans will investigate leaks, not torture.

Drudge is reporting this: (It's one of his unsourced "Flash" stories so, grains of salt. And these links often disappear if he's wrong.)

Sources tell Drudge that early this afternoon House Speaker Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Frist will announce a bicameral investigation into the leak of classified information to the WASHINGTON POST regarding the “black sites” where high value al Qaeda terrorists are being held and interrogated.


Said one Hill source: “Talk about a leak that damaged national security! How will we ever get our allies to cooperate if they fear that their people will be targeted by al Qaeda.”

According to sources,
the WASHINGTON POST story by Dana Priest (Wednesday November 2), revealed highly classified information that has already done significant damage to US efforts in the War on Terror.

Let's run through the issues here. 1. Notice that this is listed as "bicameral" not bipartisan. 2. Notice that the damage to national security is perceived to be the leak, not the underlying actions. 3. Notice that they are going to look into the LEAK, not the possible underlying violations of US law. 4. No mention is made of the possible withholding of information from congressional oversight.

Here comes the immunization. Dana Priest is "unamerican" therefore all right-thinking folks should not believe what she writes. Also, Dana Priest's sources just all dried up preventing any further reporting on this topic.

There's something big in all this. The GOP is throwing every asset they have into stopping the stories on torture. I would guess that there is an incriminating trail that leads right to the White House.

Update: here's a more reliable E&P version.

Bush on FEMA directorship in 2001

I was looking for information about Nicholas Calio(the name on the WHIG membership list that I'm not too familar with,) and I came across this gem from Bush on the FEMA directorship shortly after being elected in 2001.

(Said in relation to his longtime political supporter Allbaugh)

"FEMA is an incredibly important part of a president's team. The person who runs FEMA is someone who must have the trust of the president. Because the person who runs FEMA is the first voice, often times, of someone who's life has been turned upside down hears from," Bush said.

Oh, and then there's this in relation to the appointment of Rove.

"He is one of the reasons I was elected governor and one of the reasons I was elected president," Bush said. "He comes to Washington with a wonderful sense of history, a great understanding of the presidency as an institution in America."

"He will bring good judgement, good humor and good advice to the White House," he added.

Is he still funny, George?

Nicholas Calio, by the way, is the congressional liason for Bush. He previously held the same job under Bush Sr, and his main task seems to be that of political fixer. His role on the WHIG must have been to count the likely votes in the congress, so not too much there, but I would be curious to see what sort of communications he sent out with Iraq info in them.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cheney lied us into Iraq.

I know, that's not news, but the mechanisms are. How can a VP run the foreign policy? And what kind of president abrogates these responsibilities? This is from Slate and it's got a whole lot of new stuff in it regarding Cheney's interference with normal intelligence processes.

(excerpt note: Acronym OVP stands for Office of the Vice President)

Although the Libby indictment might lead some to believe that OVP was running an apolitical enforcement operation, it was doing much more than that. Cheney's team was producing the basic justification for going to war.

News accounts have placed the origin of much of the bad intelligence in the Office of Special Plans, which was run by Abram Shulsky, a graduate-school pal of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. In fact, the bad intel came largely out of something called the Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, which reported to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. This group consisted of just two people: Michael Maloof, a controversial former aide to Richard Perle whose security clearances were eventually suspended, and David Wurmser, a longtime neoconservative advocate of toppling Saddam Hussein. (Since late 2003, Wurmser has worked in OVP.) ....

Dick Cheney was CTEG's patron. He had the group present its material at OVP and the National Security Council. He made frequent public remarks, drawing on CTEG conclusions, alleging an al-Qaida/Saddam connection.....

It's a little thick reading, especially in the small type I use, but definitely worth it. Click through to Slate for more easy reading.

Senate staffer beaten for her investigation?

The FBI and Capitol Police are investigating the vicious attack of a top Senate staffer at her home last week amid concerns that the assault might be related to her work on the Finance Committee. ....

Emilia DiSanto, chief investigator for committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), arrived at her suburban Virginia home after work Wednesday about 6:30 p.m. As she was unloading belongings from her car, a 6-foot-1-inch white man dressed in black struck her repeatedly with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat.

The attack on DiSanto came two days before a bomb threat caused alarm at an Iowa veterans home where Grassley was scheduled to appear. ....

Grassley is known for his aggressive oversight of the public and private sector. Over the past year, he has scrutinized healthcare fraud, organ-donation procedures used by hospitals, drug-safety matters and the use of nonprofit groups related to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

But why is Cheney fighting for torture?

Much has been blogged today about this mornings WaPo A01 story "Cheney Fights for Detainee Policy," but very few are asking the question why. My best guess is that Wilkerson(Colin Powell's former second) was right and that there is a direct chain that leads onto the Vice President's desk. These quotes from theWaPo story are out of order.

After Senate aides were ordered out of the Mansfield Room, just steps from the Senate chamber, Cheney said that aggressive interrogations of detainees such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed had yielded useful information, and that the option to treat prisoners harshly must not be taken from interrogators.

Slightly different wording. Are "aggressive interrogations" the same as the "option to treat prisoners harshly" that Cheney is seeking in the CIA exemption to the McCain amendment? Is Dana Priest telling me here that in this closed Senate meeting Cheney is admitting that Khalid Skeik Mohammed was tortured?

Of other interest from this article is confirmation of Wilkerson's other claim that Cheney staff were spying on the NSC.

On the issue of the CIA's interrogation and detention practices, this spring Cheney requested the CIA brief him on the matter. "Cheney's strategy seems to be to stop the broader movement to get an independent commission on interrogation practices and the McCain amendment," said one intelligence official.

Beside personal pressure from the vice president, Cheney's staff is also engaged in resisting a policy change. Tactics included "trying to have meetings canceled ... to at least slow things down or gum up the works" or trying to conduct meetings on the subject without other key Cabinet members, one administration official said. The official said some internal memos and e-mail from the National Security Council staff to the national security adviser were automatically forwarded to the vice president's office -- in some cases without the knowledge of the authors.

And why would Cheney be attempting to "stop the broader movement to get an independent commission on interrogation practices"? I would wager it's because Wilkerson was telling the truth on NPR when he said that he had uncovered a "visible audit trail tracing the practice of prisoner abuse .... directly back to Vice President Cheney's office."

Question: Forget the context for a moment, if someone in the whitehouse was "automatically forwarding" emails with potentially classified info, without the author's knowledge, shouldn't that get them fired?

Question 2: Why would Cheney be so actiively seeking to block investigations into "prisoner abuse" if he wasn't afraid that he was under that rock?

For a little context, be sure to read Mike's wild-assed theory that Colin Powell is behind the downing of Cheney.

UPDATE: I've gotta admit, this is clever tactics. The NYTimes is reporting that the new DoD interrogation guidelines have been signed by Rumsfeld. Nothing too surprising in that, but if you read the article carefully, the guidelines only apply to "Pentagon prisoners."

"requires that Central Intelligence Agency interrogators follow military guidelines when questioning Pentagon prisoners."

In other words, the CIA is still allowed to torture CIA prisoners. What this does is to allow Cheney's CIA exemption, because there has never been any real debate that the military would be allowed to torture. The Bush admin can say the problem is dealt with and put pressure on McCain to drop the amendment. Good tactics. Let's see just how serious McCain is.

Chalabi Scott Free?

As is obvious over the last couple of days, I have taken a sincere offense that Ahmad Chalabi, who is alleged to have leaked critical intercept information to Iran has been welcomed with open arms by senior Bush admin officials and several influential outside neocons at the AEI.

The reason this is unforgivable is that the intercept information Chalabi is alleged to have leaked would have given the Iranians the keys to our electronic monitoring of their communications during this critical period of near crisis over their nuclear program. More succinctly, Chalabi is alleged to have shown the Iranians how we listen in, by definition, also showing them how to communicate outside our "ears." This is a huge intelligence loss.

Well, the WSJ hasn't forgotten either and they confirm the foot dragging. For god's sake, somebody ask Condi the question.

More than 17 months after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly promised a full criminal inquiry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't interviewed Mr. Chalabi himself or many current and former U.S. government officials thought likely to have information related to the matter, according to lawyers for several of these individuals and others close to the case.

The investigation of Mr. Chalabi, who had been a confidant of senior Defense Department officials before the war in Iraq, remains in the hands of the FBI, with little active interest from local federal prosecutors or the Justice Department, these people said. There also has been no grand-jury involvement in the case.

The investigation centers on allegations that one or more U.S. officials in early 2004 leaked intelligence to Mr. Chalabi, including the fact that the U.S. had broken a crucial Iranian code, and that Mr. Chalabi in turn had passed the information to the Baghdad station chief of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. ....

Mr. Markham, a former federal prosecutor, said that, ordinarily in a leak investigation, "the first thing you would do would be to get the tippee," the person to whom the information was leaked, "in there and say 'Who talked to you?' " But, he said, "That never happened." .....

Lawrence Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said in an emailed response to questions that he had no knowledge of the FBI or federal prosecutors having questioned current or former Defense Department officials.

The Bush admin intentionally "misrepresented" Iraq intel

In the WaPo poll not long ago, a majority of Americans responded that Bush should be impeached if it was proven that his administration had lied about WMD to launch the war in Iraq.

US military intelligence warned the Bush administration as early as February 2002 that its key source on Al-Qaeda's relationship with Iraq had provided "intentionally misleading" data, according to a declassified report.

Nevertheless, eight months later, President George W. Bush went public with charges that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein had trained members of Osama bin Laden's terror network in manufacturing deadly poisons and gases.

These same accusations had found their way into then-secretary of state Colin Powell's February 2003 speech before the UN Security Council, in which he outlined the US rationale for military action against Iraq.

So whattya think? Did they lie?

This refers back to the NY Times piece yesterday.

A few more spy arrests.

This article in the Moonie times came out a couple of days ago, and I have been waiting to post it, hoping I could find another source. But, as I haven't seen it anywhere else,

Four persons arrested in Los Angeles are part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ring, federal investigators said, and the suspects caused serious compromises for 15 years to major U.S. weapons systems, including submarines and warships.

If you are interested in this kind of thing, the story is short and the intel compromises are huge. The ability to track the new Virginia class submarines and a near complete ripoff of the "Aegis technology." In other words, the Chinese can now match and manufacture Aegis class destroyers.

(oh, and this isn't a Bush admin thing. It appears to have been going on for fifteen years.)

The Chalabi spin continues

The WaPo did a bit of a puffpiece on Chalabi's visit to Condi Rice and other US administration officials. Despite admissions in the article that Chalabi has no political base and that the majority of Iraqis find him untrustworthy, the WaPo prints an article that can only be described as advocating for this conman.

In the fourth paragraph the "remaking" begins.

"Think of him as a former football player -- that was all then. That's what he did in his other life," said a senior Bush administration official who has dealt with Chalabi. He spoke on condition of anonymity because Chalabi remains a divisive figure within the administration.

Then, a little further down, there are a couple of quotes from Francis Brooke.

"We have been quite open about his desire to be prime minister. For some parties that may have been an insoluble demand," said Francis Brooke, a senior Chalabi aide who also was targeted in the espionage investigation last year. "We think this is our time."

Francis Brooke was the INC and Chalabi's front man in Washington in the years before the Iraq war. He was Chalabi's political PR guy who got him meetings and speaking gigs.

"Chalabi is one among three who at this point are front-runners to assume higher position after the Dec. 15 elections," said a second senior State Department official, who also mentioned Allawi and the Supreme Council's Adel Abdel-Mehdi, who will also visit the United States this month. "No one has forgotten the past. But this is a very important election, and [Chalabi] is a good and resourceful politician."

Brooke contends that Iraq's current prime minister, Ibrahim Jafari, has faltered over the past year and that Allawi, his predecessor, was too tainted by charges of corruption.

There's also a dropped/passing mention in the article that the prospect of Chalbi being Prime Minister of Iraq is gaining more credibility in Washinton(thanks to Brooke and several unnamed administration officials) than it is the reality in Iraq.

Yet U.S. officials note that all reliable opinion polls show Chalabi with an almost negligible political base.

So, the question is, how is all this spin that Chalabi might be prime minister by Brooke and a couple of other Chalabi "sympathizers" in the administration working it's way into a huge flattering WAPO piece which minimizes his bank fraud and leaking of critical US intel information to Iran? Simple, the Chalabi team invited the WaPo reporter over for a lavish dinner to butter them up.

After dinner, in a brief poolside interview with reporters, Chalabi was reflective and coy when asked about his ambitions.

I expect so much better. I sure hope the shrimp were good.

Low expectations

Bush's travel agenda to South America this week took him to Argentina where the US failed to secure the passage of the FTAA, scuppered by the Barzil, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Then, Bush went to Brazil in an effort to convince the Brazilians to drop their objections to the Doha round of trade talks.(The Brazilians object to US and EU agriculture subsidies.) The Brazilian trip failed as well.

So, then the administration planners figured they'd go for an easy single and try to establish a bilateral trade deal with Panama so they could claim the trip wasn't a total failure. But even that couldn't be wrapped up when the Whitehouse so needs a win.

During the press conference with Torrijos after the meeting,

President Bush on Monday vigorously defended U.S. interrogation of suspected terrorists after the public disclosure of secret CIA prisoner camps in eastern European countries. "We do not torture," he declared. .... and

On another issue, Bush ducked a question about the CIA leak investigation, declining to say whether he has lived up to his campaign pledge in 2000 to abide by the spirit of federal ethics laws.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chalabi visits Iran, then Washington

Thought I was so clever connecting the two stories. First, the AP story last Friday, reporting that Chalabi was coming to the US next week to visit with Condi Rice, the AEI/Ledeen, "senior US officials," and attempting a meeting with Dick Cheney. Then today, in an AP article, a reference to Chalabi visiting the new Iranian hardline president Ahmadinejad.

Thought I was so clever, then I come across the NYTimes version that references both meetings.

Questions: First, is Chalabi acting as a back channel between the US and Iran? Perhaps more pertinently, if you look at his schedule of identified visits in the US, is he acting as a back channel for certain neoconish elements of this administration? Ledeen, Rice, and Cheney were all cheerleaders for the war and all had their hands in the "mushroom cloud" language. How active is the "cabal" at this point?

Second, we can question the obviously false intel he channeled into US intel stream through others who supported the war, but the bottom line is this:

Isn't Chalabi still under investigation for leaking intercept information to Iran? Should Rice, or any other "senior US official" be meeting with this guy?

Let's flashback to a June 3, 2004 front page Washington Post piece.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice yesterday promised Congress a full investigation into allegations that an Iraqi politician supported by the Pentagon told Iran the United States had broken the code it used for secret communications, and U.S. officials said the revelation destroyed an important source of intelligence.

In a closed-door damage assessment on Capitol Hill, National Security Agency officials said the disclosure cut off a significant stream of information about Iran at a time when the United States is worried about the country's nuclear ambitions, its support for terrorist groups and its efforts to exert greater influence over Iraq.

How's that investigation going Condi? You like the promotion you got for doing nothing about it? We've all been buying into the line that Cheney was the only evil in the Iraq buildup, but tell me this doesn't stink.

Plame gossip

This is a condensation of an older story, but as Rove is still under investigation and all....

But there are hints that Rove might have known he was dealing with classified information in his talk with Cooper. Recounting that phone conversation in Time magazine, Cooper said his notes and e-mails indicated that Rove told him "material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his findings." He remembered Rove ending the call by saying, "I've already said too much."

The main storyline of this article from the LATimes(yahoo link) is best summed up in the title: Rove's Security Clearance Widely Questioned.

UPDATE: This is pretty long, but it's a very thorough exploration and timeline of Rove's changing grand jury testimony following the very late "discovery" of the Rove->Hadley email mentioning Cooper. Pretty good work.