Is this how Google and a band of Internet mercenaries plan to shrink the Internet universe, forcing independent websites and blogs to submit to merger into a few small corporate bohemoths, or risk being "flagged" out of existence? Welcome to the new world order...
The boys over at RedState have come up with what might be the most bone-headed idea since that high school kid from South Florida took the credit cards his parents gave him and stole off to Iraq, hoping to commit some random acts of teeni-bopper journalism. In that case, the kids was criticized across the board for endangering not only his own life, but the lives of U.S. servicemen and women and embassy staffers who were forced to track him down and extract him before the kidnappers, insurgents, militias, and other goon squads running rampant through Baghdad got to him first.
Now, the boys from RedState -- a lovely blog, I'm sure, if you're a mindless Bush worshipper -- want to replicate his stupidity. Why, I wonder, should amateur journos who run a blog be capable of delivering more accurate news than, say, veteran correspondents like Michael Ware or Richard Engel? Oh, that's right, because journalists like Ware and Engel are "biased" against the war -- they see only the bombings and the carnage, and forget to notice the sunshine and sweet, tasty pita bread. Give me a break!
Earth to RedStaters: the reason the war seems to be going badly in the TV and print coverage, is because it IS going badly. That's not just the opinion of journalists. (I don't think Fox has a bureau in Iraq, and I'm not sure they would even if they WERE an actual news outlet, rather than a propaganda factory, and well, the whole Geraldo draws a map in the sand thing didn't work out so well, but even their man on such matters, Ollie North, has made it clear that the troops he talks to believe the war is going badly...) It's also the opinion of the Pentagon itself, if you choose to believe the latest intelligence assessment on the war, not to mention the assessments of the generals themselves.
Sending your inexperienced, chicken-hawk behinds to Baghdad will do only two things: first, it will allow you to brag to the quizzlings at LGF and that harpy Laura Ingraham chick that you, like Bill O'Reilly, have actually "been in combat," and thus you really "know what the troops are feeling..." and second, it will force those troops to waste precious time and resources protecting your sorry behinds and escorting you around the Green Zone (you don't dare leave the Green Zone, and if you don't know why, you might want to read up before your trip...) rather than prosecuting their mission -- however flawed.
In other words, if you want to play war, buy a video game. Leave the reporting to the reporters. Besides, since when do you need to feel the hot sand on your faces in order to propagandize for the president?
The Democrat turned Republican strategist goes public with his falling out of love with President Bush, and the doubts about his leadership, and about the war, that have been bubbling up since even before the 2004 election. So now he tells us.
To be fair, Dowd has shown a propensity for favoring "unifying" solutions to the nation's major problems, such as his push last year for Republicans to embrace "comprehensive immigration reform," and his warning to the president's people that they would need to increase their support among minorities. Still, it's interesting that those who have fallen away from the president couldn't manage to do so when it counted: before the 2004 election.
Still, I'll take Dowd at his word that his view has changed, and wish him the best trodding through the African plain...
America's Authoritarian Mayor, Rudy "Third Time's The Charm" Giuliani tells a softball tossing Barbwa Walters that if he's president, his husband stealing, three man marrying whore wife will make a darned fine advisor, who'll even be welcome at cabinet meetings! Maybe she could hire Angelina Jolie as her chief of staff...!
We're starting to see the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's end-game in the taking of those 15 British Royal Navy and Marine personnel, as Tehran releases not just more propaganda video of the sailors supposedly confessing to trespassing in Iranian waters, but also letters from one of the hostages -- I guess "detainees" is more politically correct, though I think both are accuarate descriptors -- supposedly calling on Tony Blair to withdraw British forces from Iraq.
But the latest gambit from the Iranians (which may or may not be under the direction of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) is probably the bottom line: Iran is now seeking to exchange the Britons for five Iranian intelligence officers being detained by the Americans after the latter captured the former inside Iraq. That's already been rejected by the U.S., but it gives you a window into the Iranians' strategy, which likely included the premeditated seizure of the Brits.
Meanwhile, some Britons are calling for a change in tactics, namely the ratcheting up of pressure on Tehran by the E.U., which is Iran's largest trading partner, and which enjoys greater respect by the Iranians than the British, given the war in Iraq. And speaking of Iraq, the editorialists at the Independent add insult to British injury:
...there is a bigger problem here than clumsy diplomacy. Quite simply, Iran is holding most of the cards. Because of the catastrophe in Iraq, the UK has no real diplomatic leverage in the region. Tony Blair calls the Iranian action illegal in international law and cites the United Nations mandate for the presence of British forces in Iraq. But the US and Britain invaded Iraq ignoring the will of the UN. The former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, called the action illegal. Mr Blair has little moral authority when he cites international law now. It is notable that the UN statement stopped short of deploring the Iranian action, as requested by Britain. It also makes no mention of Security Council resolution 1723 that authorises the coalition presence in Iraq. The wounds opened by the foolish invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK have not healed.
The American sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programme has raised the stakes, too. It is increasingly clear from the preposterous letters that Ms Turney has been forced to write that hardline elements in Tehran want to use this incident as part of a wider propaganda war against Britain and America. But we also ignore Tehran's paranoia at our peril. British ministers never mention that US forces have Iranian territory more or less surrounded. America is in Iraq, Afghanistan and recently they have moved two aircraft carriers to the Gulf. ...
The Iranians are clearly paranoid, but also crafty. They likely know that the Brits don't have the wherewithal to attack them militarily, and the U.S. has been revealed to be far from invincible in Iraq (much the way Israel was exposed by the Lebanon conflict.) So Iran clearly feels it can take a calculated risk by trying to force the U.S. and the Brits into a diplomatic corner.
The trouble is, George W. Bush is not the most stable or thoughtful character out there, and it could be that he decides to use the U.K.-Iran crisis as a means to start his next project for a new American century... and to force a clearly reluctant and disappointed Britain to go along.
Institute for Policy Studies fellow and Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis has said the following on that prospect:
"The U.S. is continuing to ratchet up threats against Iran. The current standoff in the Gulf between Iran and Britain may well not have been a deliberate British provocation, beyond the 'normal' provocative nature of the U.S.-British strategy of boarding and 'inspecting' ships, etc., but that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous."
"Blair isn't so keen on an attack on Iran; his rhetoric even after the sailors were captured has been remarkably low-key, and a move against Iran could threaten his already-shaky political standing. The Shatt al-Arab waterway is always a difficult navigation point, even aside from political tensions, and this kind of move has happened before and blown over in a few days. However, it's likely the Cheney gang is pushing Britain to escalate, to make this Tonkin Gulf II (the false claim of a North Vietnamese attack used to justify the Vietnam war in 1964), though it doesn't appear Blair/Brown are biting yet. But, once again, having said all THAT, things are very tense and could easily spin out of control."
...then why is he set to serve just nine months in prison back in his home country of Australia? Perhaps this is a clue:
As part of the plea bargain, Hicks also withdrew claims he was abused in US detention.
The Australian had previously alleged he was beaten by US forces after his capture in Afghanistan and that he had been sedated before learning of the charges against him.
Addressing the tribunal, he affirmed he had "never been illegally treated by any persons in the control or custody of the United States" before or after his transfer to Guantanamo in 2002.
But wait, there's more:
As part of his plea deal, Hicks has agreed not to speak to the media for a year, not to receive any money for his story and not to sue the US government.
At Friday's hearing, he had to convince the military judge that his guilty plea was genuine and not just a tactic to return home to Adelaide.
However his father, Terry, said that was the only reason he had agreed to make the plea.
The Australian government will be relieved that the David Hicks saga is coming to an end, says the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney.
While the conservative government is a supporter of the US military justice system, it has come under a great deal of pressure from Australians disturbed by Hicks' treatment, and will be glad to put the issue behind it with elections due later in the year, our correspondent says.
Two governments, one giant cover-up, but at the end of the day, at least David Hicks is out of Gitmo. Who can blame him for pleading out?
Alberto Gonzales just might be getting advice from counsel, as they say, since as of today, his operative phrase has gone from "I wasn't involved" in the purge of eight U.S. attorneys (and an apparent scheme to get rid of Patrick Fitzgerald too) to "I don't recall..."
At the same time, it's becoming clear that Gonzales cares more about himself, at the end of the day, and about preserving his position, than he does about either the credibility, mission and personnel of the Justice Department, or about the image and reputation of the White House and the President, all of which his continued presence is seriously harming. It's long past time for Gonzales to put an end to this drama by resigning, or being fired. I still maintain that he will be gone in a matter of weeks. Time will tell if I'm right. For now, Gonzales will have a couple of weeks to ponder his testimony before Congress, as the legislative branch takes a spring break recess until April 10th. He is scheduled to go before the Senate and/or House on April 17th, although apparently he's seeking a way to move things up, perhaps to spare himself and his political party the long drawn out waiting game ... but then again, it's probably mainly to spare himself.
The Bush administration has told so many lies, and twisted so much of government and military pursuit and well, everything, to cynical political ends, that it's almost hard to be shocked anymore. But the Pat Tillman cover up stands out, both because of its cynicism -- the administration used Tillman's service, and his death in Afghanistan, to promote the utterly corrupted war in Iraq -- and its brazenness. Now, it turns out President Bush was probably briefed about the true cause of the former NFL star's death, at least a month before the Pentagon admitted the truth about his friendly fire death to his family. Do these people have ANY shame? From the AP:
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. ...
...In a memo sent to a four-star general a week after Tillman's April 22, 2004, death, then-Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that it was "highly possible" the Army Ranger was killed by friendly fire. McChrystal made it clear his warning should be conveyed to the president.
"I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public," McChrystal wrote on April 29, 2004, to Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command.
White House spokesman Blain Rethmeier said Friday that a review of records turned up no indication that the president had received McChrystal's warning. Bush made no reference to the way Tillman died in a speech delivered two days after the memo was written. But Rethmeier emphasized that the president often pays tribute to fallen soldiers without mentioning the exact circumstances of their deaths.
The family was not told until May 29, 2004, what really happened. In the intervening weeks, the military continued to say Tillman died under enemy fire, and even awarded him the Silver Star, which is given for heroic battlefield action.
Ultimately, Pat Tillman was valued by the Bush administration more for his propaganda value than for his service. The same could be said for Jessica Lynch, whose falsified tale of heroism was also used to bolster the war.
What a sad commentary on the party that supposedly cares so much for the men and women of the armed forces, but which apparently only really cares about exploiting and misusing them.
Rudy Giuliani -- thrice married (to a thrice married, man stealing hussy who, if God truly hates America and he is elected persident, could be running policy from an office in the West Wing), liberal on issues dear to the religious right and GOP gun nuts, and running on 9/11. But here's the problem: firefighters hate him, and the real story of his incompetence before and his callousness after the terror attacks on the Twin Towers is now coming to light, anecdotally today, in "Swift Boat" style TV and radio ads, inevitably. From this week's TIME:
"If Rudolph Giuliani was running on anything but 9/11, I would not speak out," said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was among the 343 FDNY members killed in the terrorist attack. "If he ran on cleaning up Times Square, getting rid of squeegee men, lowering crime — that's indisputable.
"But when he runs on 9/11, I want the American people to know he was part of the problem."
Such comments contradict Giuliani's post-Sept. 11 profile as a hero and symbol of the city's resilience — the steadfast leader who calmed the nerves of a rattled nation. But as the presidential campaign intensifies, criticisms of his 2001 performance are resurfacing.
Giuliani, the leader in polls of Republican voters for his party's nomination, has been faulted on two major issues:
— His administration's failure to provide the World Trade Center's first responders with adequate radios, a long-standing complaint from relatives of the firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed. The Sept. 11 Commission noted the firefighters at the World Trade Center were using the same ineffective radios employed by the first responders to the 1993 terrorist attack on the trade center.
Regenhard, at a 2004 commission hearing in Manhattan, screamed at Giuliani, "My son was murdered because of your incompetence!" The hearing was a perfect example of the 9/11 duality: Commission members universally praised Giuliani at the same event.
— A November 2001 decision to step up removal of the massive rubble pile at ground zero. The firefighters were angered when the then-mayor reduced their numbers among the group searching for remains of their lost "brothers," focusing instead on what they derided as a "scoop and dump" approach. Giuliani agreed to increase the number of firefighters at ground zero just days after ordering the cutback.
More than 5 1/2 years later, body parts are still turning up in the World Trade Center site.
"We want America to know what this guy meant to New York City firefighters," said Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "In our experiences with this man, he disrespected us in the most horrific way."
The two-term mayor, in his appearance before the Sept. 11 Commission, said the blame for the death and destruction of Sept. 11 belonged solely with the terrorists. "There was not a problem of coordination on Sept. 11," he testified. ...
Sounds a bit like Baghdad Bob.
Newt Gingrich -- dumped his wife while she was in a hospital bed recovering from cancer, so he could marry his mistress, left Congress in disgrace, but hey, he's conservative!
And then there are the wee also-rans, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, libertarian Ron Paul and such-like, but really, is it worth the blogspace to do more than mention their names?
So at this point, I'm thinking the GOPers had better lean hard on Fred Thompson to run. He may not have the "fire in the belly," but damnit, at least he's a celebrity. And to my knowledge, he never egregiously left a wife, botched the response to a terror attack, or pissed off the Cubans in Miami.
I was waaaay too busy yesterday, so I'm playing catch-up on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings involving Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales, who gave voluntary testimony yesterday. To sum up, Sampson went to the Senate to support the concept of firing federal prosecutors for political reasons, but not to get Albertcito (or Harriet Miers or anyone else for that matter,) off the hook. Short answer: this guy has no intention of being Scooter Libby.
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was more deeply involved in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys than he has sometimes acknowledged, and Gonzales and his aides have made a series of inaccurate claims about the issue in recent weeks, the attorney general's former chief of staff testified yesterday.
In dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, D. Kyle Sampson also revealed that New Mexico U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias was not added to the dismissal list until just before the Nov. 7 elections, after presidential adviser Karl Rove complained that Iglesias had not been aggressive enough in pursuing cases of voter fraud. Previously, Rove had not been tied so directly to the removal of the prosecutors.
These and other disclosures by Sampson, who abruptly resigned earlier this month, represent the latest challenge to Gonzales's version of events. The attorney general has been sharply criticized by lawmakers of both parties, by his own employees and even by President Bush for his handling of the U.S. attorneys' dismissals.
Sampson's testimony also shows that, along with Rove, other senior White House aides were more closely involved in the dismissals than has previously been disclosed. It adds to evidence that some of the firings were influenced by GOP political concerns and that the selection process was not based on hard data.
Sampson said he even suggested firing U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald of Chicago while Fitzgerald was prosecuting Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff for perjury. Sampson said he immediately dropped the idea, which he raised at a White House meeting last year, when he received negative reactions from then-White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers and her deputy, William Kelley.
Gonzales has sought to portray himself as detached from the details of the firings, saying on March 13 that Sampson was in charge. Gonzales also said he "was not involved in any discussions about what was going on" in the process. The attorney general sought to clarify that statement in a television interview Monday, acknowledging more frequent contact with Sampson.
But Sampson provided new detail of Gonzales's involvement, testifying in response to questioning that he had at least five discussions with his boss about the project after Gonzales first approved the idea in early 2005 and that the attorney general was aware which prosecutors were under consideration for dismissal.
"I don't think the attorney general's statement that he was not involved in any discussions of U.S. attorney removals was accurate," Sampson said. "I remember discussing with him this process of asking certain U.S. attorneys to resign."
Sampson added later that "the decision makers in this case were the attorney general and the counsel to the president" -- Miers. ...
“I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers — they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we’ve got here,” Mr. Bush told an audience of ranchers and cattlemen, after remarking that Iraqis were beginning to see “positive changes.”
He went on to quote the bloggers directly: “Displaced families are returning home, marketplaces are seeing more activity, stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.”
But just who were these anonymous bloggers? The deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino, spent a good chunk of her regular briefing on Wednesday deflecting that question, and defending the propriety of the president’s use of anonymous quotes.
Ms. Perino called the bloggers “one input from many different inputs that are coming in regarding progress on the ground,” and said she herself had often responded to anonymous quotations. “Blogs are new for all of us,” she said, “and I know that you all look at them, because you call me and ask me what we think about the blogs.”
As for the writers’ identity, it remained a mystery — until the White House distributed a transcript of the briefing. In a footnote at the end, the administration disclosed that the bloggers were Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, two brothers who are both dentists and who write an English-language blog, IraqTheModel.com, from Baghdad. The White House said their writings had been cited in mainstream news outlets; on March 5, the Fadhil brothers wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Notes from Baghdad.”
Oh, yes, and on Dec. 9, 2004, they met in the Oval Office with Mr. Bush.
Now that the subject is old and tired, the Times has stumbled on the “news” that the blogosphere is more aptly termed the propaganda-sphere.
Boxer takes on the case of Iraq the Model, a website that captures in its very name the neocon vision of a democratized and properly domesticated Middle East. The pro-war bloggers have been touting the brothers Fadhil, as exemplars of the “good news” from Iraq. Their capstone of their triumphant American tour, sponsored by a “charitable” organization known as the “Spirit of America,” occurred when two of the brothers were received at the White House for face time with the Prezt. But there’s a fly in this ointment, as I pointed out at the time, and I?m glad to see that the MSM, in the person of Ms. Boxer, has fished it out: the disenchantment of the third brother, Ali, whose last post on Iraq the Model read as follows:
“This is the last time I write in this blog and I just want to say, goodbye. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, but I know I should do it. I haven’t told my brothers with my decision, as they are not here yet, but it won’t change anything and I just can’t keep doing this anymore.
“My stand regarding America has never changed. I still love America and feel grateful to all those who helped us get our freedom and are still helping us establishing democracy in our country. But it’s the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.
“At any rate, it’s been a great experience and a pleasure to know all the regular readers of this blog, as I do feel I know you, and I owe you a lot.
“Best wishes to all of you, those who supported us and those who criticized us as well.”
Boxer got in touch with Ali, and her depiction of his ambiguity about the American occupation, and the tenuousness of his position in relation to the realities of Iraq, ruined the Potemkin Village rah-rah propaganda regularly emitted ? in English ? on ?Iraq the Model? and a slew of other pro-occupation Iraqi blogs:
?Why did he quit Iraq the Model? When was he going to expose the Americans who made him feel he was on the wrong side? He was surprisingly frank. The blog had changed him. When the blog began, he said, ?People surprised me with their warmth and how much they cared about us.? But as time passed, he said, ?I felt that this is not just goodwill, giving so much credit to Iraq the Model. We haven’t accomplished anything, really.?
“His views took a sharp turn when his two brothers met with the president. There wasn’t supposed to be any press coverage about their trip to the United States, he said. But the Washington Post wrote about the meeting, and the Arabic press ended up translating the story, which, Ali felt, put his family in real danger. Anyway, he said, he didn’t see any sense in his brothers’ meeting with President Bush. ?My brothers say it happened accidentally, that it was not planned.? But why, he asked, take such an ?unnecessary risk?? He explained his worries: ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American.??
Ali, in short, was tired of being used by the War Party to make propaganda in America. The pro-war bloggers are now getting up on their high horses, screeching that Boxer has put the Fadhil brothers in danger. But Ali is right: it is the propagandists in America, including the laptop bombardiers? brigade, who put them in danger the minute they started holding them up as model New Iraqis, the offspring of the “liberation.” But since Glenn Reynolds-Powerline-Little Green Footballs crowd is definitely not part of the reality-based community, the hard reality of Ali?s comment that ?Here some people would kill you for just writing to an American? is inadmissible, becasue “some people” means an awful lot of people.
Boxer takes up the suspicions first raised by Martini Republic that ?Iraq the Model? might have informal connections to the U.S. government, a suggestion that was greeted with outrage by pro-war bloggers, but Ali?s account doesn?t dispel the murky aura of intrigue that hangs over the whole affair:
“Ali never did expose the people who made him feel that he was on the wrong side, and in fact conceded that he couldn’t. As he confided on the phone, ‘I didn’t know who the people were.’”
But Ali isn’t disenchanted with the idea of human freedom: it’s just that now he doesn?t identify this idea with the U.S. government:
“‘Me and my brothers,’ he said, “we generally agree on Iraq and the future.’ (He is helping his brother Mohammed, who is running on the Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party ticket in the Jan. 30 election.) But there is one important difference: ‘My brothers have confidence in the American administration. I have my questions.’”
So it's not that simple, Mr. Bush. Much of what you read in blogs is pure political propaganda (think Pajamas Media, LGF, Wizbang (sadly, because there are some good guys over there, but they're becoming subsumed by the Kim Priestaps of the world), Redstate, and on and on). But there are also some independent-minded writers, too, like Rick Moran, Mark in Mexico, Alex Nunez (who I wish had more time to blog) and others, and even some bloggers, even of the Iraq the Model variety, for whom the Kool-Aid eventually wears off.
The Senate votes 50-48 to reject a Thad Cochran (Miss) attempt to stop Congress from setting a timeline for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Good looking out, Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith. Lieberman: I literally cannot wait for your next reelection fight. Now, the House and Senate versions go to conference, and Bush will whip out his veto pen. But if the Dems play their cards right, they could back him into a corner where it's take it or leave the troops broke. Check.
Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm not too sweet on the GOP, let alone the partisan henchmen who labor for them. But some things are bigger than politics. Life, for one. My mother died of metastatic cancer that began as breast cancer and wound up in the liver, after recurring about ten years after a mastectomy. I know how deadly liver cancer can be. Once it's there, it's a very tough road for anyone afflicted with it. Tony Snow now has cancer in his liver that metastasized from his colon, which was removed some years ago. Whatever my opinions of his politics, or his tactics as press secretary, those things don't matter now. All I can do is wish him well, and hope that he, like Elizabeth Edwards and all other cancer victims, will keep his spirits up, and keep the fight on. Best wishes to you, man.
Congressional inquiries into conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are taking a political turn as Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, investigates whether high-profile Republicans used their influence to help a firm win a private maintenance contract.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Treasury Secretary John Snow and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld all have some connection to the firm, IAP Worldwide Services. The company's board is also populated with former top military officials.
IAP won the maintenance contract after a protracted competition with a group of former federal civil service employees who also bid for the work that was targeted for privatization during the Clinton administration.
In an interview, Kaptur said IAP's corporate connections "look like a Republican parking lot. Was the outsourcing a matter of favoritism with people with the right connections?"
The Politico breaks down the why of the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Some of the political fireworks between President Bush and Congress over fired U.S. attorneys could well be explained by looking back at when the saga began: the 2004 election.
Back then, Democrats were trying to register enough new voters to beat Bush while Republicans were issuing dire warnings that the Democrats were out to steal the election by encouraging voter fraud.
It's an issue the White House had fixated on since the Supreme Court ended the 2000 Florida recount and settled the presidential campaign amid charges that if the ballots of the Sunshine State's black voters had been counted, Democrat Al Gore would have won.
Bush's allies were obsessed with ensuring that his reelection couldn't be questioned as well. So, in the fall of 2004, Republican operatives tucked thick folders of newspaper clippings and other fraud tips under their arms and pitched to reporters their claims that the Democrats' registration program would lead to rampant voter fraud. Their passion was clear, but their evidence was slim, consisting mostly of isolated incidents of voter registration irregularities that were handled by local police or election officials.
What wasn't mentioned in those conversations with reporters was a Republican National Committee strategy, already underway, to work with state parties to identify and challenge questionable voters at the polling precincts. Among those working at the RNC was Tim Griffin, the former Karl Rove aide who recently replaced fired U.S. attorney Bud Cummins. Then, with the vast federal law enforcement community acting as the new sheriff, Republicans hoped to pocket the evidence they longed for: a string of high-profile investigations and convictions.
Failure of some U.S. attorneys to pursue the final plank in that strategy now appears to have helped trigger an internal debate over whether to fire all or some of them, administration comments and e-mails suggest. ...
The firestorm over the fired U.S. attorneys was sparked last month when a top Justice Department official ignored guidance from the White House and rejected advice from senior administration lawyers over his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The official, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, ignored White House Counsel Harriet Miers and senior lawyers in the Justice Department when he told the committee last month of specific reasons why the administration fired seven U.S. attorneys — and appeared to acknowledge for the first time that politics was behind one dismissal. McNulty's testimony directly conflicted with the approach Miers advised, according to an unreleased internal White House e-mail described to ABC News. According to that e-mail, sources said, Miers said the administration should take the firm position that it would not comment on personnel issues.
Until McNulty's testimony, administration officials had consistently refused to publicly say why specific attorneys were dismissed and insisted that the White House had complete authority to replace them. That was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' approach when he testified before the committee in January.
But McNulty, who worked on Capitol Hill 12 years, believed he had little choice but to more fully discuss the circumstances of the attorneys' firings, according to a a senior Justice Department official familiar the circumstances. McNulty believed the senators would demand additional information, and he was confident he could draw on a long relationship with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, in explaining in more detail, sources told ABC News.
In doing so, however, McNulty went well beyond the scope of what the White House cleared him to say when it approved his written testimony the week before the hearing, according to administration sources closely involved in the matter.
The U.S. gets a guilty plea from Australian Qaida suspect David Hicks, who will likely be returned to his home country to serve his sentence. Why the quick capitulation by Hicks, who had been prepping for a fight? Time, and perhaps the Red Cross, will tell. My guess is the Howard government, already teetering under the weight of the "global war on terror" and the unpopularity of the Iraq war, brokered a deal. Aussie media take: Hicks pleaded out to escape "hell..."
Mitch McConnell, come on down! You're the next contestant on, "voters: fire this Bush-bot!"
The New York Times continues to carry water for the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, this time back-stoking the "Iran is arming the terra-rists" meme in a front page story.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair continues to fulminate, and do little else, on the subject of those captured sailors in Iran. Blair says Iran must follow international law or face unnamed consequences (a good, stern talking-to, maybe?)
I've heard a lot of B.S. from Michael Savage, perhaps the craziest loon on right wing radio. But this ... THIS takes the cake:
SAVAGE: If we don't wake up in this country, to summarize, the Muslim extremists who are marching in the streets of Europe will be marching in the streets of America. And they will massacre you as sure as I'm standing here, unless you understand what's at stake. They will massacre you unless you understand how they see the world, and what's at stake.
They will never assimilate in America. Never, in a million years, will they assimilate and permit their son Ahmed to marry another man. Never in a million years will they permit their daughters to become prostitutes like the vermin on Sunset Boulevard who puke on themselves and are held up as role models by the media.
Never in a million years will they subjugate themselves to permit a shrike like Barbara Boxer to use a fishwife mouth on them. Never in a million years. Don't you understand how they see the world? I do, which is why most of them listen to the show and love me.
Wha??? Hang on ... Michael Savage, the right wing stalwart who considers himself more American than you, or me, or damned near everyone else, also considers himself to be THE go-to guy for Muslim extremists who like talk radio??? So, can we consider him the Islamofascits' anchor man?
Yeah, you don't know that. The enemy himself probably listens to this show and says, "My God, if more of America was like this guy, I probably wouldn't even want to overthrow the country. I'd have nothing to overthrow. I'd be proud to be part of it. But the country that he rails against, the things going on in this country that this man rails against, are the very things that disgust me."
Katie Couric gets tough! Channels El Rushbo in scorched earth interview with ... cancer ... victim...
So NOW Katie wants to be a tough minded journalist, asking the hard questions and holding the feet of the powerful to the fire. And the subject of her sharp journalistic lens? Cancer victim Elizabeth Edwards and her husband, former Senator John Edwards. And being the brilliant mind that she is, Katie even managed to include a littany of questions straight from Rush Limbaugh's radio show, without even calling the Fat Man by name! An astute IFilm poster has the medley of Katie-style grilling:
Wow, Katie. You're like ... Edward R. Murrow, only perkier! And don't let those critics get you down... they're just hating on you because you're in fourth place in the news race and they're not. Oh, sorry, is that third?
Three things you DON'T want said by people on your side when you're in the midst of a White House scandal ending in "gate":
#1: "I plead the Fifth" #2: "I plead the Fifth" #3: "I plead the ..." you get the idea.
So the chief counsel to the nation's chief law enforcement official says she will take the Fifth rather than testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Gonzogate scandal. Her words are pretty chilling, if you're a Bushie:
"I have decided to follow my lawyer's advice and respectfully invoke my constitutional right," Monica Goodling, Gonzales' counsel and White House liaison, said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And the words from her attorney (who Keith Olbermann deftly points out tonight was also the guy who prosecuted Pete Rose for betting on baseball) are even worse:
"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," [attorny John Dowd] said. Goodling was key to the Justice Department's political response to the growing controversy. She took a leave of absence last week.
"One need look no further than the recent circumstances and proceedings involving Lewis Libby," Dowd said, a reference to the recent conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff in the CIA leak case.
To which Pat Leahy rightly replied:
"The American people are left to wonder what conduct is at the base of Ms. Goodling's concern that she may incriminate herself in connection with criminal charges if she appears before the committee under oath,"
So what now for Gonzlaes, who according to reports is only hanging onto his job ont he condition that he make things right with Congress? Well, if his NBC News interview today is any idication of his prowess as a witness (he's set to go before Congress on April 17) in the immortal words of Mother Klump in "The Nutty Professor" movie, "he doesn't look well..." Of course, Gonzo says that he may one day find out that the prosecutors were purged for political reasons, and if so, he's gonna be really, really mad... (LOL)
More on Ms. Goodling:
Goodling's announcement appeared to be an unforeseen piece of bad news for Gonzales' agency, which had no immediate comment.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is leading the Senate's investigation into the firings, said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told him he was misled by other Justice Department aides before he testified to Schumer's panel on Feb. 6.
A day earlier, Goodling was among those who helped McNulty prepare his testimony. Schumer has said McNulty may have given Congress incomplete or otherwise misleading information about the circumstances of the firings.
A little more than two weeks before that, Goodling helped organize the response to senators asking whether the firings were politically motivated, e-mails show. Specifically, she wanted to show that one of the fired prosecutors, Carol Lam of California, had been the subject of complaints by members of Congress.
On Jan. 18, 2007, Goodling sent an e-mail to three Justice staffers saying, "I hear there is a letter from (Sen. Dianne) Feinstein on Carol Lam a year or two ago."
"I need it ASAP," Goodling wrote.
She was later sent two letters, from Rep. Darrell Issa (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif., dated Oct. 13, 2005, and 19 House members, on Oct. 20, 2005, which both complained that Lam was too lax in prosecuting criminal illegal immigrants.
Additionally, Goodling was involved in an April 6, 2006, phone call between the Justice Department and Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record), R-N.M., who had complained to the Bush administration and the president about David Iglesias, then the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque. Domenici had wanted Iglesias to push more aggressively on a corruption probe against Democrats before the 2006 elections.
Iglesias told Congress earlier this month that he rejected what he believed to be pressure from Domenici to rush indictments that would have hurt Democrats in the November elections.
Not a good look, Ms. Goodling.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows the American people strongly back the Congressional Gonzogate probes, including the issuing of subpoenas.
And of course, there's always another scandal waiting in the wings. Mr. Rove? You're up.
Hagel throws out the I-word again, this time, in an interview with Stephanopoulos (and he joins the growing number of GOP and Dem members of Congress saying that Gonzales is a lost cause. Said Hagel:
"Any president who says, I don't care, or I will not respond to what the people of this country are saying about Iraq or anything else, or I don't care what the Congress does, I am going to proceed — if a president really believes that, then there are — what I was pointing out, there are ways to deal with that," said Hagel, who is considering a 2008 presidential run. ...
...On Sunday, Hagel said he was bothered by Bush's apparent disregard of congressional sentiment on Iraq, such as his decision to send additional troops. He said lawmakers now stood ready to stand up to the president when necessary.
In the April edition of Esquire magazine, Hagel described Bush as someone who doesn't believe he's accountable to anyone. "He's not accountable anymore, which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends on how this goes," Hagel told the magazine.
Well it's about damned time the Hill started standing up to this out of control president...
With the White House doing the opposite of damage control by insisting that the president will hang on to Alberto no matter what, I'm finding it more and more interesting to start looking at the supporting cast in the Gonzogate melodrama. So while we're looking, we might as well start with the Lee Harvey Oswald of this tawdry tale...
So who is Kyle Sampson, and what is his strange relationship to the obscure Patriot Act provision that got us into this mess in the first place?
Sampson, a Utah Mormon, had been John Ashcroft's deputy when he was attorney general. He has been friends since law school (at the University of Chicago) with Dick Cheney's daughter Elizabeth (the straight one...) After Ashcroft stepped down following the 2004 election, Gonzales helped guide nominee Alberto Gonzales through Senate confirmation, and would later do the same for President Bush's SupCo nominees. And while he is now the administration's designated scapegoat, Sampson's hometown paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, and other news outlets report the following about his role in Gonzogate, picking up from the time of Ashcroft's post-election exit:
About that time, the suggestion was floated that a number of U.S. attorneys could be replaced with Bush loyalists. Sampson opposed wholesale change but by March 2005 sent a list of targeted prosecutors to White House Counsel Harriet Miers.
And then it gets interesting...
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner announced in January 2006 he would become a federal magistrate, opening a spot Sampson had long sought. An e-mail released Thursday suggests that Sampson may have tried to push Warner out of the job in early 2005 but was rebuffed by Hatch.
With Warner stepping aside in 2006, Sampson lined up the support of Gonzales and others, but Hatch recommended Brett Tolman, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Utah who was working for the Judiciary Committee at the time for Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.
Tolman, who ultimately got the job, had in March 2006 added language to the Patriot Act renewal, at the Justice Department's request, to allow the White House to replace U.S. attorneys without Senate consent.
So Tolman wrote the provision that allowed Gonzo to mount his political purge of U.S. attorneys, and then Tolman became one of the newly minted U.S. attorneys... interesting...
As for Sampson, he could be giving voluntary sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee as early as this week.
Meanwhile, Hill Republicans are continuing to walk away from Alberto, and the right wing blogosphere is starting to skate on Gonzo as well. The Carpetbagger ferrets out a few good examples, including the very succinct Ed Morrissey:
Have we had enough yet? I understand the argument that if we allow the Democrats to bounce Gonzales, they’ll just aim for more, but Gonzales made himself the target here with what looks like blatant deception. I don’t think we do ourselves any good by defending the serially changing stories coming out of Gonzales’ inept administration at Justice. One cannot support an Attorney General who misleads Congress, allows his staffers to mislead Congress, and deceives the American people, regardless of whether an R or a D follows his name or the majority control of Congress.
I will brook no excuses by commenters that Gonzalez “misspoke,” or “forgot,” or “got a note from his mother” that gave him permission to lie, or other excuses from the ever dwindling number of Bush diehards who visit this site . He is the frickin’ Attorney General of the United States fer crissakes! If there is anybody in government who needs to tell the truth, it is the guy responsible for enforcing the laws of land.
I give these righties credit for intellectual honesty. Maybe one of them will wrestle the Kool-Aid out of the hot little hands of the die-hard Bushies at Wizbang. Hell, even Michelle has gone south on Gonzo, (I'd hate to think it was because he's so suspiciously Mexican, Mizz Malkin) though she hasn't seen fit to blog about the controversy in a week ... and Miss Twit is positively apoplectic over the dropped P.R. ball (but of course, not about the lying...)
Back to the 'Bagger, who asks the right pertinent questions:
* A Republican leadership staffer told Roll Call this week, “We are not throwing ourselves on the grenade for them anymore. There’s now an attitude of ‘you created this mess, you’ve got to get yourself out of it.’”
After watching conservatives back Bush on everything from Iraq to Plame to illegal NSA wiretaps to Katrina, have we finally found the one thing the right isn’t willing to defend? And if so, isn’t it safe to assume the political pressure on the White House will be even more intense?
And if that’s so, exactly how bad is this going to get for the Bush gang?
I'd say rather worse, until they learn the central lesson of public relatons: when you're caught in a crisis in which you don't control the variables (i.e., there's more information out there that could come out to bite you, and you don't control it,) the best way to stanch the bleeding is to stop fighting, apologize, and give your critics something big. In this case, the thing to give the critics would be Gonzales' head, and the more the White House resists, the more protracted this scandal will become. I suspect that before the White House has to relent to allowing Bush's Brain to be put under oath (which will further escalate this scandal) they'll throw Alberto overboard.
Jay Rockefellar actually does the job of Senate Intelligence Committee chair (a refreshing change from Pat Roberts, whose chosen role was more like pathetic White House toadie...) Rockefellar is raising important questions about whether the Whie House's high value detainee program (encompassing both renditions to secret CIA prisons and foreign countries known for torture, and Gitmo, apparently also known for toture...) should continue. Ironically, Congress is awaiting a rewrite of the White House's policy on the Geneva Conventions that will come in large part via the advice of Mr. Torture/prosecutor head chopper Albertcito Gonzales... yet another reason that he should go - any advice he gives will have little currency with the Dem controlled Congress.
Meanwhile, amid from EU demands that they be immediately freed, Iran is claiming that the 15 detained UK Royal Navy members (including one woman) have "confessed" to being in Iranian waters when they were captured and detained. The BBC reports the group are being "interrogated" but are "safe" according to Tehran officials. How stupid a move was this on the part of the Iranians? I'm guessing pretty damned stupid, given the tensions in the region being fanned by both Tehran and Washington. The British up to now have expressed no desire to join the U.S. in even entertaining the idea of attacking Iran. My guess is that this incident will help the hawks in the Bush administration to drag the Blairites closer to their point of view...
And this as the U.N. prepares to vote on possible sanctions against Iran for its continued nuclear program.
I've often wondered, probably not alone, why despite dismal approval ratings and increasing political and actual chaos all around him, George W. Bush never seems to be too worried about the political future. He seems blythely unconcerned about his party's political fortunes, including the prospect that his dreadful presidency will lock Republicans out of not only the Congressional majority, but also the White House, perhaps for generations to come.
Well, maybe now we have an answer.
It appears increasingly clear, from the many scandals that have recently arisen out of the Justice Department (the mass collection of unauthorized data on Americans by the FBI, and the purging of U.S. attorneys,) that the Bush administration -- and Karl Rove specifically -- have been putting in place a sure-fire way to ensure that the White House remains in Republican hands, by rigging future elections -- without even the need of fixing the voting machines.
How have they planned to do it? By using, of all things, the nation's federal prosecutors and courts to suppress Democratic (read Black) votes in key states, and to place political operatives in positions where they can do damage to Democratic candidates, using the same legal attack strategy that was used on the Clintons when they were in office. In other words, Bush is so calm because he knows that his hatchet man is bending nearly every federal agency at his disposal to the purely political purpose of electing Republicans and suppressing Democratic votes.
WASHINGTON - Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed laws that narrow minority voting rights and pressed U.S. attorneys to investigate voter fraud - policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.
Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.
Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the four U.S. attorneys weren't chosen only because of their backgrounds in election issues, but "we would expect any U.S. attorney to prosecute voting fraud."
Taken together, critics say, the replacement of the U.S. attorneys, the voter-fraud campaign and the changes in Justice Department voting rights policies suggest that the Bush administration may have been using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes. ...
Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.
Rove thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected." He added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs."
The department's civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."
Several former voting rights lawyers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of antagonizing the administration, said the division's political appointees reversed the recommendations of career lawyers in key cases and transferred or drove out most of the unit's veteran attorneys.
Bradley Schlozman, who was the civil rights division's deputy chief, agreed in 2005 to reverse the career staff's recommendations to challenge a Georgia law that would have required voters to pay $20 for photo IDs and in some cases travel as far as 30 miles to obtain the ID card.
A federal judge threw out the Georgia law, calling it an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era poll tax. ...
In other words, what we now have is a White House engaging in what amounts to widespread voter disenfranchisement different from Jim Crow era Bull Connor tactics only in their subtlety:
Former voting rights section chief Joseph Rich, however, said longtime career lawyers whose views differed from those of political appointees were routinely "reassigned or stripped of major responsibilities."
In testimony to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week, Rich said that 20 of the 35 attorneys in the voting rights section have been transferred to other jobs or have left their jobs since April 2005 and a staff of 26 civil rights analysts who reviewed state laws for discrimination has been slashed to 10.
He said he has yet to see evidence of voter fraud on a scale that warrants voter ID laws, which he said are "without exception ... supported and pushed by Republicans and objected to by Democrats. I believe it is clear that this kind of law tends to suppress the vote of lower-income and minority voters."
Other former voting-rights section lawyers said that during the tenure of Alex Acosta, who served as the division chief from the fall of 2003 until he was named interim U.S. attorney in Miami in the summer of 2005, the department didn't file a single suit alleging that local or state laws or election rules diluted the votes of African-Americans. In a similar time period, the Clinton administration filed six such cases.
Those kinds of cases, Rich said, are "the guts of the Voting Rights Act."
During this week's House judiciary subcommittee hearing, critics recounted lapses in the division's enforcement. A Citizens Commission on Civil Rights study found that "the enforcement record of the voting section during the Bush administration indicates this traditional priority has been downgraded significantly, if not effectively ignored."
Again, this is much, much larger than a "pleasure of the president" series of personnel changes.
What the A.G. knew: Al Gonzales, George W. Bush and the politicization of Everything
"Alberto, you're doing a heckuva job..."
President Bush is continuing to stand behind his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales (at least publicly,) apparently bunkering in and ratcheting up the stubbornness despite the increasingly obvious fact that Mr. Gonzales is a drag on an already sinking ship of state. Here's the latest from AP:
WASHINGTON - President Bush is standing firmly behind his embattled attorney general despite Justice Department documents that show Alberto Gonzales was more involved in the decisions to fire U.S. attorneys than he previously indicated.
Gonzales said last week he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of federal prosecutors. On Friday night, however, the department disclosed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.
That e-mail only added to the calls for Gonzales' ouster. ...
... At the Nov. 27 meeting, the attorney general and at least five top department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.
At that session, Gonzales signed off on the plan, drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week.
A Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, also has taken a leave of absence, two officials said.
The plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.
Six of the eight prosecutors who were ordered to resign are named in the plan.
Here's the problem for Alberto: He went on record more than a week ago claiming complete ignorance of the plan to fire the prosecutors, and palmed off responsibility on his chief aide, Kyle Sampson. Sampson is now being invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and could contradict the prior sworn testimony of Mr. Gonzales, putting the nation's chief prosecutor in the rather awkard position of having potentially lied to Congress, and to the American people.
More from the AP story:
Gonzales told reporters on March 13 that he was aware some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.
"I knew my chief of staff was involved in the process of determining who were the weak performers — where were the districts around the country where we could do better for the people in that district, and that's what I knew," Gonzales said. "But that is in essence what I knew about the process; was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on. That's basically what I knew as the attorney general."
Later, he added: "I accept responsibility for everything that happens here within this department. But when you have 110,000 people working in the department, obviously there are going to be decisions that I'm not aware of in real time. Many decisions are delegated."
The documents' release came hours after Sampson agreed to testify at a Senate inquiry this coming week into the prosecutors' firings.
Asked to explain the difference between Gonzales' comments and his schedule, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the attorney general had relied on Sampson to draw up the plans on the firings.
"The attorney general has made clear that he charged Mr. Sampson with directing a plan to replace U.S. attorneys where for one reason or another the department believed that we could do better," Roehrkasse said. "He was not, however, involved at the levels of selecting the particular U.S. attorneys who would be replaced."
And the bottom line, from just one of the lawmakers who have Gonzales in their crosshairs:
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings, said, "If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general."
Now over to TPM Muckraker, which links to an LAT piece revealing that part of the Justice Department political wing's plan for dealing with "political fallout" was to go to an old salt that always seems to be top of mind for Republicans: "Clinton did it too!" From the LAT Article:
Three weeks ago, Justice Department officials settled on a "talking point" to rebut the chorus of Democratic accusations that the Bush administration had wrongly injected politics into law enforcement when it dismissed eight U.S. attorneys.
Why not focus on the Clinton administration's having "fired all 93 U.S. attorneys" when Janet Reno became attorney general in March 1993? The idea was introduced in a memo from a Justice Department spokeswoman.
Of course, the argument is, as per usual, false and misleading, and beyond that, it's dangerous to the very notion of fairness under law. From ThinkP, quoting a Congressional Research Service report on the unprecedented firings:
A CRS report released yesterday examines the tenure of all U.S. Attorneys who were confirmed by the Senate between the years 1981 and 2006 to determine how many had served — and, of those, how many had been forced to resign for reasons other than a change in administration.
– Of the 468 confirmations made by the Senate over the 25-year period, only 10 left office involuntarily for reasons other than a change in administration prior to the firings that took place in December.
– In virtually all of those 10 previous cases, serious issues of personal or professional conduct appeared to be the driving issue. Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired for improper, and in one case criminal, behavior. The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” For two others, the CRS was unable to determine the cause.
It is clear that of the four administrations that controlled the executive branch of government during the past quarter-century, only the current administration has held the view that U.S. Attorney can or should be removed absent serious cause. In no instance is there any indication of a removal because a U.S. attorney failed to meet certain political criteria, such as prosecuting cases that were considered too sensitive to partisan issues or failing to prosecute cases that would be helpful from a partisan perspective.
The innovative philosophy of the current Bush administration with respect to the service of U.S. Attorneys is worthy of the attention it is now receiving. Those eight forced resignations threaten the very basis of our justice system — to quote the words written above the pillars on the west front of the Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”
But hey, little things like that haven't stopped the Bushies before... So let's dig deeper into the small number of Justice Department officials who have been fired before. More from Mr. Lilly's CAP analysis of the Congressional Research Service report:
Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired. The first was William Kennedy, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. The Christian Science Monitor on Apr. 26, 1982 explained that he was dismissed “for charging that the Justice Department, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency, was blocking his attempt to prosecute Mr. [Miguel] Nassar [Haro], because he had been a key CIA informant on Mexican and Central American affairs.”
The second, J. William Petro, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, was dismissed (according to the Oct. 3, 1984 edition of The New York Times) because the Department of Justice was “investigating allegations that Mr. Petro disclosed information about an indictment pending from an undercover operation and that the information reached a subject of the investigation.” Petro was later convicted of the charges.
The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” These included:
Frank L. McNamara, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts who resigned because “he was the target of an internal probe,” into “whether he had lied to federal officials,” according to a Jan. 31, 1989 report in The Boston Globe.
Larry Colleton, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida resigned in Jul. 1994 after he was “videotaped grabbing Jacksonville television reporter Richard Rose by the throat,” according to local press reports.
Kendall Coffey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, resigned on May 12, 1996, according to news reports, “amid accusations that he bit a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club.”
Michael Troop, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, who resigned to become State Police Commissioner. Later reports indicated that he was under investigation at the time by the Justice Department for sexual harassment.
Karl Kasey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, who according to news reports “abruptly left office after the Justice Department began investigating e-mails in which offered to secretly assist a GOP candidate.”
In two other cases, there were no apparent issues of personal or professional misconduct. Michael Yamaguchi, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, appears to have been a victim of disapproving federal judges. The CRS report sites news reports in 1998 stating that he was “apparently squeezed out by the local federal bench and his bosses in the U.S. Justice Department.”
The only instance other than the recent firings in which there was no apparent explanation for a forced resignation also occurred during the Bush administration. Thomas DiBiagio, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland resigned in 2005. Recent news reports indicate that he “was forced from office,” but there has been no explanation as to why. ...
In other words, the actions taken, we now know with the full knowledge of Mr. Gonzales, were both unprecedented, and brazenly political, in a manner we have not seen since the Reagan administration's firing of a U.S. attorney who was accusing THEM of wrongdoing...
So the "Clinton did it, too" canard just won't wash.
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says. The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.
The Royal Navy said the men, who were on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters, were understood to be unharmed.
The Foreign Office has demanded the immediate and safe return of the men, who are based on HMS Cornwall.
The frigate's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a "simple mistake" over territorial waters.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they [British personnel] were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may claim they were in Iranian territorial waters.
More on this development from the Independent UK:
The MoD said the incident happened at around 10.30am local time.
"The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters," a spokesman said.
Hopefully it's just a misunderstanding ... and not a dress rehearsal for another "coalition of the willing" ...
Obama may be distancing himelf from the Hillary 1984 ad guy, but he can't really be all that unhappy about the incredibly viral ad, which was both well done and effective at communicating the "don't be a drone, Hillary's not the only choice" message the Obama campaign is trying to convey. Oh, and don't worry about the ad guy, whose actual name is Philip de Vellis. The spot was so good, he'll definitely get another job. Madison Avenue, here he comes!
The media is focusing on the thing that, at the end of the day, matters most to them: the media ... when it comes to the scoop that wasn't re John Edwards future plans as a presidential candidate. But more important than Politico's dropped ball (relying on a single source? Journalism 101: don't do it, but then again, it's not as if this is the first time a journo has gotten something wrong...) is the question of whether Edwards can go the distance, given his wife's condition, and whether soldiering on makes him more noble and presidential, or less. That, and the utterly cynical basic tendencies of what passes for the right these days...
Rudy Giuliani's wife, Judith, made a shocking revelation yesterday that stunned even those close to the White House hopeful - he isn't her second husband, but her third.
"Something I will share with you is that, since I haven't done [many] interviews . . . Rudy and I have both been married three times," Judith told The Post.
It was the first time she has publicly disclosed the bombshell information.
Several longtime Giuliani supporters said they had thought he was her second husband, and profiles about Judith Giuliani - who has revealed little about herself publicly before - have always referred to her as twice-married.
"We both married young," she told The Post yesterday in an interview. "And then we were both married again. And it took us until this stage in life to realize and find the person that we eventually wanted to grow old with." ...
John Edwards announced today that he will continue his presidential campaign despite the return of his wife Elizabeth's cancer. I'm sure the righties will slam him for it, and claim he's trolling for the sympathy vote. Well, at least he didn't call the press conference to announce he was divorcing Elizabeth, or visit her in the hospital to inform her he's leaving her for his mistress... All I can say, as the daughter of a breast cancer victim who did just what the Edwards' are doing -- got on with her life, until her fight was done, in September of 1986 -- is Godspeed. BTW... couldn't resist tracking down this wedding photo of the Edwards duo "back in the day." Very cute, no?
NBC News is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee has written a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, asking the Bushies to reiterate whether their lame, no-transcript, no oaths, private "meet and greet" offer is their final offer.
Meanwhile, Albertcito says he must stay on as attorney general ... for the children...
GONZALES: I’m not going to resign. I’m going to stay focused on protecting our kids. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done around the country. The department is responsible for protecting our kids, for making our neighborhoods safe, for protecting our country against attacks of terrorism, to going after gangs, going after drug dealers. I’m staying focussed on that. ...
Ah, the children. Thank God they've got Alberto to take care of them. Let's just hope they're "Bushie" enough to actually merit his aid...
Oh, and the Senate OK'd the issuance of subpoenas today, just like the House did yesterday.
And guess who the next Senate Judiciary Committee star witness is going to be? Hellooooo, Kyle Sampson!
Meanwhile, TPMM rounds up a few hot takes on where this thing could go next...
First spotted by a commenter on the blog Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall reports there is an 18-day gap in the over 3,000 emails released by the Department of Justice pertaining to the attorney firing scandal.
The gap covers the days between November 15 and December 4, 2006. So far, only one email has been found dated within the 18 days among those released in Monday night's document dump. The lone email, from November 29, 2006, was one forwarded by Justice official Michael Elston to a fellow staffer asking for an attached review document to be printed.
"The firing calls went out on December 7th. But the original plan was to start placing the calls on November 15th," notes Marshall. "So those eighteen days are pretty key ones."
Politico reporters Mike Allen and John Bresnahan also picked up on the gap. They surmise that the missing communication covers "a critical period, as the White House and Justice Department reviewed -- then approved -- which U.S. attorneys would be fired, while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings."
"There are enough disgruntled employees at Justice ... that the information is going to come out. The White House needs to decide if it's going to come out 'drip, drip, drip' or if they're going to get it all out." -- Senator Chuck Schumer, appearing on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" on Wednesday
Chuck Schumer did his best Tony Soprano tonight, commenting on the White House's ridiculous 'offer the Congress can't accept' -- which can be paraphrased as "sure, you can talk to our staffers, but you can't record it, create transcripts, or put them under oath"...
Clearly, the Dems aren't going to go for that okey-doke. And the White House is sounding awfully desperate with those "please accept our generous offer" entreaties.
Because they know, just as Schumer knew when he made the above comment to Keith, that there will be more disclosures.
As former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins has written, "Once the public detects partisanship in one important decision, they will follow the natural inclination to question every decision made, whether there is a connection or not."
Today, the nonpartisan congressional watchdog Democracy 21 sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty asking whether there had been political interference in the investigation and prosecution of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
"Based on issues that have been raised in the firing of the eight U.S Attorneys , we're all in a position to want some assurance that there hasn't been political interference in the case," Fred Wertheimer, Democracy 21's president, told me. "This still remains the worse congressional corruption scandal in 30 years. There are lesser players who have been convicted. But there are still big players here, including sitting and former members of Congress whose cases apparently have not yet been resolved. "
In a detailed, 10-page letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) signed by Kathleen Sullivan, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and Paul Twomey, a lawyer for the Democrats, they argue that the investigation, which targeted prominent operatives in the Republican Party, was stalled and mishandled.
On Election Day in 2002, Republicans schemed to jam the phone banks for Democratic get out the vote efforts. Two Republicans involved in the plan pled guilty, and James Tobin, formerly the New England Regional Political Director for the Republican National Committee, was convicted for his role. The case took years to play out; the first guilty pleas in the case were not until the summer of 2004, and Tobin was not indicted until after the 2004 election.
One of the reasons the investigation was stalled, Democrats argue, is that "all decisions had to be reviewed by the Attorney General himself" -- first John Ashcroft and then Alberto Gonzales. To back up that claim, the Democrats say that lawyers working on the case were told by prosecutors that delays in the case were due to the extreme difficulty in obtaining authorization from higher levels at DOJ for any and all actions in the case.
A lawyer for one of the Republicans in the case backs up that claim. John Durken, the lawyer for Allen Raymond, a Republican whose consulting firm managed the jamming, says that the lead prosecutor in the case told him during one meeting that Ashcroft was involved in every decision. "He said, 'Every decision in this case goes all the way up to Ashcroft’s desk.'" Durken told me that such a fact didn't "surprise" him, given the political nature of the case.
... The Democrats' other grievances, which they lay out in the letter, are 1) that the Justice Department bogged the investigation down by assigning only one FBI agent to the case -- and that agent was part-time 2) that the DoJ's refusal to prosecute the organziations responsible for the jamming, the New Hampshire Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, violated Justice Department guidelines, and 3) the DoJ failed to follow leads that led to higher-level Republican involvement.
Dividing along partisan lines, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee has voted to authorize subpoenas for Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other senior White House aides as part of the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.
The commerical and administrative law subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), also authorized document subpoenas for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, White House Chief of Staff Jashua Bolton, and White House Counsel Fred Fielding.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) now can issue the subpoenas whenever he wants, although he indicated at the hearing that Democrats were still negotiating with Fielding on getting Rove. the White House deputy chief of staff, and Miers, the former White House counsel, to testify under oath before the panel on the firings.
"We don't have a timetable" for issuing the subpoenas, Conyers told reporters following the hearing.
Conyers, Sanchez, and other Democrats on the Judiciary have rejected an offer by Fielding to allow Rove, Miers, William Kelley, deputy White House counsel, and J. Scott Jennings, a special assistant to President Bush in the White House political affairs office, be interviewed informally by members and committee staff. Under Fielding's proposal, those interviews would not take place under oath, and a White House lawyers would be present.
Sanchez complained that Fielding's proposal "allows limited access to witnesses, no access to key documents, and no testimony under oath. We have worked toward voluntary cooperation on this investigation, but we must prepare for the possibility that the Justice Department and White House will continue to hide the truth."
Conyers said having the subpoenas ready to go acts like "a backstop" in the panel's negotiations with Fielding, and he pointed out that the Justice Department had failed to meet a Friday deadline to turn over all documents in its possession related to the firings. Democrats complained that the 3,000 pages of documents turned over by Justice on Monday night are heavily redacted.
The Senate Judiciary Committee debates following suit tomorrow.
Update: Here's a link to the text of Bush's presser today regarding Gonzalesgate. So far, Dubya is taking a defiant posture, although I detected more fight in him regarding Karl Rove than Al Gonzales at his feisty media avail.
Today I'm also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we're giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys.
In the last 24 hours, the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department documents, including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency in White House communications.
Third, I recognize there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. And if the staff of a President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice, and the American people would be ill-served.
Yet, in this case, I recognize the importance of members of Congress having -- the importance of Congress has placed on understanding how and why this decision was made. So I'll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts. In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However, we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.
Let's rewind that last paragraph ...
In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue.Might I interpret that as a threat if I were a Republican member of Congress considering coming out against the attorney general? Yes, I might.
Okay, now, let's re-set. The president is going to prevent Karl Rove from testifying. He's going to protect him. Al Gonzales on the other hand, is going to the Hill, and apparently, Bushie is giving him one last chance to save his job. But will it work? Well, there's the latest reporting from the good folks at The Politico:
The White House and top GOP officials are bracing for a lengthy battle over executive privilege and the likely resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the escalating fight over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, several key Republicans said Tuesday.
With Democrats demanding public testimony of top White House aides, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and the White House insisting on private interviews only, the GOP officials said the controversy over the fired prosecutors is likely to intensify and prompt Gonzales to step aside.
President Bush on Tuesday called Gonzales, offering a public show of support. And White House press secretary Tony Snow said that news reports about a search for a replacement were "flat false."
But people involved in the process to sound out potential replacements for Gonzales said they had not talked to Snow. A GOP loyalist close to the White House said the process went on ice after Bush made his call to Gonzales. "They were reaching out," the operative said. "Now, we're in lockdown. We're just waiting. They've reached out to everyone they need to reach out to and are waiting to get a 'yes' from someone."
The operative assumption, the GOP source said, is that Gonzales will go but that he will do so on his own schedule. The first stage in finding a replacement is gauging who is available among the well-established lawyers under consideration, most of whom have previously been confirmed by the Senate. "I think it is going to come down to who is willing to take the job," said the source.
Meanwhile, support for Gonzales on Capitol Hill continued to wane. A member of the House Republican leadership, speaking on the condition of anonymity at a luncheon with 13 reporters, spoke scathingly of the "drip, drip, drip" produced by the furor over the attorneys.
"I can't imagine that he's going to be around a whole lot longer," said the House Republican leader. "It seems like a leak about developing a short list of replacements, combined with a direct call from the president, are sort of the two indications that your days are numbered. I just don't see him lasting through this current maelstrom.
So is Bush kicking Gonzales or punting? So far, he's punting?
Bush's call essentially leaves it up to Gonzales whether to try to hang on to his office at a time when Democratic lawmakers are gunning for him and many Republicans have given up on him.
A Republican source said Tuesday that Bush is "unmoved," and that Gonzales will not be pushed out or fired. Bush telephoned him from the Oval Office at 7:15 a.m., and aides said he "reaffirmed his strong support and backing" for his longtime friend and aide.
The White House is preparing for a showdown with Congress over Gonzalesgate. The Bushies say they are willing to provide public enemies number 1 and 2 (Karl Rove and Harriet Miers), for "interviews" -- but not for testimony -- and not under oath. That won't wash with Pat Leahy and company. Not even a little bit.
According to updated reporting by The Politco's Mike Allen, the White House also ordered the search by GOP surrogates for possible Gonzales replacements to stop -- at least publicly, and at least for now.
Bush is making a tough sounding statement to the press right now, saying he will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials, and to avoid giving in to a "partisan fishing expedition." Apparently, Bush is taking his cues from right wing bloggers, who are urging him to fight back, rather than capitulate to the growing Gonzales scandal. The next step will be to begin reigning in renegate Republican lawmakers, who are joining to "dump Gonzales" bandwagon (the latest was Tom Tancredo today).
The saga continues...
Meanwhile, the Senate has already stripped the A.G.'s office of the power (via an obscure provision in the Patriot Act II which was inserted by an operative placed, probably by Karl Rove, into the staff of Arlen Specter) to appoint interim U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. And the House Judiciary Committee is mulling stripping the FBI of some Patriot Act powers over its abuses of warrentless searches.
Back to Gonzalesgate. What's behind all the posturing? The WaPo's Dan Froomkin reports:
President Bush's message of support this morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has all the trappings of a carefully staged hail-Mary, with the president giving his friend one last chance to rally enough Republican support to ride out the storm.
But the indications remain that Bush may well toss Gonzales overboard, especially if that's the only way he can see to prevent the scandal from being pursued deeper into the West Wing.
Or, as Ed Henry reported on CNN this morning: "As one top Republican told me last night, a Republican close to the White House, saying basically the handwriting is on the wall for Gonzales. And the bottom line is if this White House has to choose between protecting Karl Rove or protecting Alberto Gonzales in order for this controversy to go away, they'll choose Karl Rove, protecting him. Because the bottom line is they can get another attorney general, they can't get another Karl Rove. He's got his hands in so many things here. He's the lead adviser to the president."
So what will win out? Republican pragmatism or a stubborn president who is now Alberto Gonzales' only supporter? And can Bush's loyalty make a severely wounded attorney general an effective judicial advocate when he has lost the confidence of literally everyone else?
Exclusive: Cunningham complained about Lam to Attorney General before he plead guilty
Among the documents buried in the enormous document dump, The Daily Background has discovered, is an letter from 19 members of Congress to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales concerning then-US Attorney Carol Lam. Lam was at the time involved in a high-profile corruption investigation Republican Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham.
The 19 members of Congress wrote Gonzales in October of 2005 complaining that they felt Lam was too lax on illegal immigration. One of the members of Congress who signed the letter complaining about Lam was Congressman Cunningham, who is now serving an eight year prison term after Lam successfully prosecuted him.
Barely a month after the 19 Congressmen (Cunningham included) requested to meet with Gonzales specifically to complain about Lam’s prosecution policy on immigration-related matters, Cunningham plead guilty to two felony counts of criminal conspiracy and tax evasion.
At the time Cunningham and the other 18 Congressmen complained about Lam, Cunningham was still claiming innocence in the corruption probe that had intensified just as the complaint to Attorney General Gonzales was made.
“The U.S. Attorney in San Diego has stated that the office will not prosecute a criminal alien unless they have previously been convicted of two felonies in the district” the letter of complaint read. Lam, the was the US Attorney for Southern California at the time, and had received favorable job reviews from the Department of Justice before she was fired after successfully convicting Cunningham.
The Department of Justice had previously said in a written review of her work that Lam was “An effective manager and respected leader… [her] Strategic Plan and District Priorities were appropriate.” One of Lam’s priorities was perusing the corruption investigation that saw Cunningham in prison and the indictments of three other alleged coconspirators.
Poor Alberto ... he cooperated in a White House scheme to take out U.S. attorneys who weren't exhibiting sufficient loyalty to the president -- loyalty, apparently best shown by prosecuting Democrats and holding back on corrupt Republicans in advance of the 2006 midterm elections. Now, Alberto's head is on the chopping block, while the probably mastermind of the scheme, Karl Rove, will, as in the Scooter Libby debacle, get off scott free.
The latest developments:
First, from the outfit that broke this story in the first place, Joshua Micah Marshall's TPM Muckraker, we have last night's document dump by the Bush administration, which consists of 3,000 pages of emails related to the U.S. attorney purge. TPMM is asking its readers to help them sift through the pile. You can do so here.
Q You said this morning that you hope that -- the White House hopes that Alberto Gonzales stays as Attorney General. Your comment has been seen as a rather tepid endorsement. Has he --
MR. SNOW: No, I didn't --
Q Has he offered his resignation?
MR. SNOW: No, he hasn't. Let me -- a couple of things. And the President has not spoken to him since he spoke to him in Mexico. What I was trying to do is, you ask a hypothetical question about things that are going to happen over the next two years. None of us knows what's going to happen to us over the next 21 months, and that's why it's an impossible question to answer: Will somebody stay throughout? However, the reason I said, we hope so, is we hope so. He has the confidence of the President. But I do not -- as a pure and simple matter, nobody is prophetic enough to know what the next 21 months hold.
Q And there's backing away from him?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q There's full confidence?
MR. SNOW: Yes. ...
Sure Tony. You're really selling it. Now for the hottest news of the day, from The Politico:
Republican officials operating at the behest of the White House have begun seeking a possible successor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose support among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has collapsed, according to party sources familiar with the discussions.
Among the names floated Monday by administration officials are Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House anti-terrorism coordinator Frances Townsend. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson is a White House prospect. So is former solicitor general Theodore B. Olson, but sources were unsure whether he would want the job.
On Monday night, Republican officials said two other figures who are being seriously considered are Securities and Exchange Committee Chairman Chris Cox, who is former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and is popular with conservatives; and former Attorney General William P. Barr, who served under President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993 and is now general counsel of Verizon Communications.
Republican sources also disclosed that it is now a virtual certainty that Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, whose incomplete and inaccurate congressional testimony about the prosecutors helped precipitate the crisis, will also resign shortly. Officials were debating whether Gonzales and McNulty should depart at the same time or whether McNulty should go a day or two after Gonzales. Still known as "The Judge" for his service on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales is one of the few remaining original Texans who came to Washington with President Bush.
In a sign of Republican despair, GOP political strategists on Capitol Hill said that it is too late for Gonzales' departure to head off a full-scale Democratic investigation into the motives and timing behind the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
"Democrats smell blood in the water, and (Gonzales') resignation won't stop them," said a well-connected Republican Senate aide. "And on our side, no one's going to defend him. All we can do is warn Democrats against overreaching."
And as I've said before:
A main reason Gonzales is finding few friends even among Republicans is that he has long been regarded with suspicion by conservatives who have questioned his ideological purity. In the past, these conservatives warned the White House against nominating him for the Supreme Court. Now they're using the controversy over the firing of eight federal prosecutors to take out their pent-up frustrations with how he has handled his leadership at Justice and how the White House has treated Congress.
Complaints range from his handling of immigration cases to his alleged ceding of power in the department to career officials instead of movement conservatives.
Still believeing Tony Snow?
Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is also working on the concurrent Gonzales scandal involving the White House's scuttling of a probe of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program by denying the necessary security clearances. Read John Conyers' letter to Gonzales on the subject here.
And read all of the HJC's letters to the White House and A.G. here.
Oh, and just when you thought it couldn't get any muckier, there's this:
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.
The ranking placed Fitzgerald below "strong U.S. Attorneys . . . who exhibited loyalty" to the administration but above "weak U.S. Attorneys who . . . chafed against Administration initiatives, etc.," according to Justice documents.
The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.
Fitzgerald's ranking adds another dimension to the prosecutor firings, which began as a White House proposal to remove all 93 U.S. attorneys after the 2004 elections and evolved into the coordinated dismissal of eight last year, a move that has infuriated lawmakers and led to calls for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to resign.
The Justice Department last night gave the House and Senate Judiciary committees 3,000 pages of new documents related to the firings, including one e-mail that says Gonzales was "extremely upset" by Senate testimony Feb. 6 from his deputy, Paul J. McNulty. Gonzales felt that "some of the . . . statements were inaccurate," the e-mail says.
Justice officials said Gonzales specifically disagreed with McNulty's statement that a Little Rock prosecutor was fired to make way for a GOP operative. They also said the new documents show that political motivations were not a factor in the firings.
The latest revelations came amid reports that the White House has already launched a search for Gonzales's replacement and that support for the attorney general among Republicans in Congress is fading fast. One GOP strategist with close ties to the White House said last night that it is likely Gonzales will leave and that White House counsel Fred F. Fielding already has potential replacements in mind. ...
I wonder how Fitzy would have been ranked had he actually indicted Karl Rove. So does Fitzgerald really suck?
Mary Jo White, who supervised Fitzgerald when she served as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and who has criticized the firings, said ranking him as a middling prosecutor "lacks total credibility across the board."
"He is probably the best prosecutor in the nation -- certainly one of them," said White, who worked in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "It casts total doubt on the whole process. It's kind of the icing on the cake."
Fitzgerald has been widely recognized for his pursuit of criminal cases against al-Qaeda's terrorist network before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he drew up the official U.S. indictment against Osama bin Laden. He was named as special counsel in the CIA leak case in December 2003 by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who had recused himself.
Fitzgerald also won the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002 under Ashcroft.
New emails elucidate the sinster connection between Foggo, of the nine fingers, and the doom of one of the Gonzales Eight. Sayeth the WaPo:
The U.S. attorney in San Diego notified the Justice Department of search warrants in a Republican bribery scandal last May 10, one day before the attorney general's chief of staff warned the White House of a "real problem" with her, a Democratic senator said yesterday.
The prosecutor, Carol S. Lam, was dismissed seven months later as part of an effort by the Justice Department and the White House to fire eight U.S. attorneys.
A Justice spokesman said there was no connection between Lam's firing and her public corruption investigations, and pointed to criticisms of Lam for her record on prosecuting immigration cases.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a television appearance yesterday that Lam "sent a notice to the Justice Department saying that there would be two search warrants" in a criminal investigation of defense contractor Brent R. Wilkes and Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who had just quit as the CIA's top administrator amid questions about his ties to disgraced former GOP congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
The next day, May 11, D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, sent an e-mail message to William Kelley in the White House counsel's office saying that Lam should be removed as quickly as possible, according to documents turned over to Congress last week.
"Please call me at your convenience to discuss the following," Sampson wrote, referring to "[t]he real problem we have right now with Carol Lam that leads me to conclude that we should have someone ready to be nominated on 11/18, the day her 4-year term expires."
The FBI raided Foggo's home and former CIA office on May 12. He was indicted along with Wilkes on fraud and money-laundering charges on Feb. 13 -- two days before Lam left as U.S. attorney.
The revelation that Lam took a major step in the Foggo probe one day before Sampson's e-mail message was sent to the White House raises further questions about the decision to fire her, Feinstein suggested.
"There were clearly U.S. attorneys that were thorns in the side for one reason or another of the Justice Department," Feinstein said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "And they decided, by strategy, in one fell swoop, to get rid of seven of them on that day, December the 7th."
A Justice spokesman yesterday referred questions about the meaning of the "real problem" e-mail to Sampson's attorney, Bradford Berenson, who declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the good folks at Talking Points Memo's TPMMuckraker, who have been way out ahead of the MSM on this story, have uncovered the apparent golden rule of firing U.S. attorneys: the better they are, the faster they go. On the David Iglesias ouster:
It's becoming one of the central rules of the U.S. attorney purge scandal: whatever "performance related" complaint the administration claims as the justification for a U.S. attorney's firing, it's actually an area of performance for which that U.S. attorney was lauded.
In this instance, the White House has said that U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico was removed in part due to his handling of voter fraud complaints. That's backed up by the numerous instances of powerful New Mexico Republicans (including Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)) complaining to Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and President Bush about Iglesias' decision not to prosecute certain cases of voter fraud.
What does this mean? It means that Iglesias must have been lauded by the Justice Department for his handling of voter fraud cases. And not just lauded -- but cited as an example for U.S. attorneys across the country.
The post makes similar cases on the firings of attorneys Lam and McKay, and they conclude that:
One of the more remarkable aspects of this story, indeed, is that the fact that the Justice Department chose a small group of the most distinguished U.S. attorneys in the country and then tried to portray them as incompetent. As you can see, it's been a losing effort. And in every case where the cover story has been blown, it's revealed political motivations for the firing.
So what's next? Like Chuck Schumer, I predict that Al Gonzales won't be attorney general a week from now. As for this scandal, unfortuately for the Bush administration, it won't die with Gonzales' federal government career.
Tomorrow, March 19, 2007, will mark the four-year anniversary of the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Four years ago tomorrow, I was sitting in a newsroom at an NBC affiliate in South Florida cringing, as some of the people around me cheered the commencement of "shock and awe." The atmosphere at that time, was "we're gonna get the sonofabitches that got us on 9/11" ... that and the resplendant graphics and potential ratings coup for the network that was gonna keep the tube sizzling for months! This was a television war -- complete with dramatic images (Saddam's statue being toppled by around 100 Iraqis, whom we later learned were itinerant young men gathered in Firdos Square by American troops, while less than a mile away, their fellow Iraqis were fighting a guerilla war against coalition soldiers and taking bombardment by U.S. airstrikes... Jessica Lynch bravely emptying her rifle as she and her fellow support troops were captured by the enemy ... of course, that turned out not to be true either ... and of course, that "shock and awe" that was supposed to take out Saddam Hussein and his sons on the first day of the conflict, and by such drama, ending it. Well, we all know how that turned out...)
Four years later, what we're left with are the deaths, of Americans and Iraqis, the mistakes, the bungling, the tawdry execution of Saddam, the protests, the politics, and the excuses, which continue to be marketed on behalf of the Bush administration by such reputable characters as Tom Delay, who along with Richard "there's be a boulevard in Baghdad named for George W. Bush" Perle was demolished this morning on Meet the Press -- despite the best efforts of Tim "Scooter's Alibi" Russert to save them -- by retired Navy Admiral and current U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) and Win Without War director Tom Andrews on the subject of whether the Iraq war made sense in 2003, and whether our remainig there makes sense now. (Best like of the morning came from Andrews, who said he'd much rather take military advice from Admiral Sestak than from Delay...)
Which brings us back to the body count. So far, The Pentagon has confirmed the deaths of 3,204 American servicemen and women as of March 17th. Add to that the 14 pending confirmation which were reported over the last several days, and you're left with a U.S. military death toll of 3,218. On the Iraqi side, estimates range from around 60,000, to 600,000, depending on which study you believe, plus some 2 million refugees (remember when Don Rumsfeld congratulated himself on there not being a refugee crisis? Those were the days...)
If you map out the U.S. casualty count, you find the numbers are heaviest in the blue states, with the exception of Texas. The highest rate of death among American servicemen to date has been in California, where 334 Americans have died in service during the war, followed by Texas (289), Pennsylvania (156), New York (145), Ohio (142), Florida (130), Michigan (125) and Illinois (119). These are the "red states" of the casualty count map -- those with 100 fatalities or more. The states with the lowest numbers happen to be in the middle part of the country -- the politically red part of the map (the deep and middle South included), where political support for the war remains strongest. In fact, the lowest body count of all is in Washington D.C., where so far 3 brave troops have been lost -- one less than in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, and two less than American Samoa.
Perhaps it's a crass way of looking at it, but one wonders if Joe Lieberman is able to be as enthusiastic about the war as he is because his state has lost 24 troops as opposed to 240, while places like Barack Obama's Illinois and Hillary Clinton's New York have borne a much heavier burden (keeping in mind that even one serviceman or woman is too much to lose, for that person's family, and for the country.)
Taking a closer look at Florida (home to the sixth largest casualty count), since that's where I live, the deaths traverse the state, from Apopka to Daytona to Carol City, Gainesville and Hialeah, but the largest numbers have been troops from Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa (the latter being a big military town).
Breaking down the deaths by ethnicity, you find that just over 74 percent of the American dead were white, another 11 percent Latino, 9.7 percent Black, and 1-2 percent apiece were Native American, Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (another 2 percent undetermined). Black enlistment has plunged over the last five years, as distrust of the Bush administration has kept many young Blacks from enlisting, even after the initial enlistment rush across all ethnicities after 9/11. (Fatalities by sex are more outsized -- women make up just 2.2 percent of the dead, though that translates to 72 American women, plus four women from other countries.)
What's even more outsized, when you look at the statistics, is the toll the war has taken on the United States Army and Marines, which have borne the brunt of this war, losing 1,681 and 788 members respectively, thus far. That's not unusual because this has been a ground war, but what's also disturbing about the numbers, is the heavy toll on the Army National Guard (412 deaths), Army Reserve (106) and Marine Reserve (118), which are so critical to our security here at home. It should not be ignored, of course, that the Navy (58 - including several Navy Seabees from here in Florida), Naval Reserve (13), Coast Guard (1), Air Force and Air National Guard (2) have also taken losses in the war, and their sacrifices are just as important, and just as painful for their families.
And then there is what you might call the "mercenary war." Don Rumsfeld as head of the DoD presided not just over the inexplicable "light force" approach to waging a ground war, but also the Bush administration obsession of privatization, which included the deployment of private contractors to do many of the jobs that used to be done by members of the military. As such, 389 civilian contractors (some former military, some just entrepreneurs or truckers) have lost their lives in Iraq, some in dramatic fashion, like the four contractors who were murdered, burned and then hung in Fallujah, or those beheaded by insurgents, but most without much fanfare in the U.S., and with only their families to mourn. Many would argue that most died unnecessarily, mostly at the hands of roadside bombs, but increasingly, due to small arms fire, or more disturbingly, helicopter shoot-downs by insurgents.
If you really want to be disturbed, look at a chart of fatalities caused by IEDs month to month, and watch how they've skyrocketed since the supposed end of the war when Bush declared "mission accomplished" on May 1st, 2003 aboard the Naval carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln. There have been 37 such attacks so far in March, more than took place in any month in the first year and a half of the conflict.
Washington, DC-Six senior retired military officers today sent a letter to Capitol Hill expressing support for immediate action to protect our troops in an effort supported by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the National Security Network.
Text of the letter:
Dear Members of the 110th Congress,
We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to protect our troops.
We are concerned that the plan to deploy additional troops to Iraq, coupled with the serious readiness deficiencies, have left our armed forces in a state of emergency.
The situation in Iraq, grave and deteriorating, is troubling to us both as former military commanders and as American citizens. Top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and Reserve and National Guard forces, and are taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.
We urge you to put pressure on the Iraqi government to take control of their own country and relieve the burden from American troops by setting a clear and definite timeline for a phased and deliberate redeployment of American combat forces from Iraq by no later than August 2008. We urge you to ensure that our troops meet the readiness standards required to protect Americans both at home and abroad. We urge you to ensure that those who serve in the name of this country receive the health care and support they need when they return to us.
Thank you for your consideration of our views. We look forward to working with you.
Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, Ret.) Former President of the National Defense University
Brigadier General John Johns (USA, Ret.), PhD Former Combat Arms Officer; Professor, national security strategy, National Defense University
Colonel Richard L. Klass (USAF, Ret.)
Captain Lawrence Korb (USNR, Ret.) Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics), 1981-1985
Major General Mel Montano (USANG, Ret.) Former Adjutant General of New Mexico
Lieutenant General William E. Odom (USA, Ret.) Former Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the Army, and former Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, 1977-1981
We'll have Dr. Korb on the morning show tomorrow to discuss the state of the war, along with James Paul of the Global Policy Forum, which is issuing a damning report on the state of the war to date, as well as D.C. businessman Yasir Shalal, a board member of the Iraqi American Alliance, who has family still in Iraq, as well as family who has fled the country to neighboring Jordan or elsewhere to escape the chaos the war has caused.
And last but not least, the latest poll numbers, starting with CNN:
The CNN poll of 1,027 adults was conducted March 9-11 by Opinion Research Corp. The sampling error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
According to the results, 35 percent of Americans are confident about the war, the poll said. When the war began, 83 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the campaign.
Similarly, 30 percent of those polled this month said they were proud of the war, as opposed to 65 percent who expressed that sentiment in 2003.
The poll also showed that 33 percent of Americans are afraid of the war and 55 percent are worried by it. Those percentages are roughly the same as they were four years ago.
Sunday's results came on the heels of a Saturday release indicating that years of war had whittled away at Americans' support for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When the Iraq war began, 68 percent of Americans said they felt the situation in the country was worth fighting over. Now, 61 percent of those surveyed say it was not worth invading Iraq, according to the poll.
That survey of 1,027 adults by Opinion Research Corp. was conducted by telephone March 9-11 as well. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll showed that support for the Iraq war had dwindled to 35 percent. In 2004, support for the war was about 56 percent. Last year, the number dipped to 37 percent, and today about 35 percent of Americans say they support the war, according to the poll.
Support for the war in Afghanistan also has seen a considerable decline as 88 percent of those polled in 2001 said they were behind the conflict. This month's poll indicates that support lingers around 53 percent.
Also, according to the poll, about 55 percent of Americans feel the war in Afghanistan is "going badly," according to the poll.
BTW, the CNN poll also found that a majority of Americans favor Congress, not the president, setting Iraq policy at this stage. Other poll results on support for the war:
My current co-host on the morning show does not believe that Alberto Gonzales will be fired, because the George W. Bush will hang onto his own, and will resist anything smacking of "justice." I predicted in my blog report yesterday, and again today, that Gonzales will not last two months, meaning he will be gone before April turns to May. Well now, I'm revising my prediction. Al Gonzales will not make it to tax day. Besides, for this White House, it's not about justice, even at the Justice Department. It's about politics. And trust me when I tell you that Gonzales will go.
Because the A.G. is a political liability to the White House...
Because his continued presence is a danger to Karl Rove, in that his scandals draw Rove in...
...and Karl Rove never lets himself hang; he lets other people hang...
Because Alberto Gonzales misled Congress (read "lied to Congress") about the true nature of the Pearl Harbor Day U.S. attorney firings. Thus, he has lost the confidence of the Congress, Republicans included, and therefore he is no longer an effective water carrier for the president on Capitol Hill.
Because Fred Fielding knows better than to let this thing fester its way into a Supreme Court showdown.
And because for the White House, perhaps the only way to stop this train from rolling down the tracks, and eventually rolling over George W. Bush, is to get Alberto Gonzales out of Washington ... fast. Two words: George ... Tenet.
Gonzales will eventually be called into the West Wing by Dan Bartlett, and asked to fall on his sword, tender his resignation for the good of the president, and promised a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Tick ... tick ... tick.
Still don't believe me? Let's ask some Republicans:
National Review: "The administration’s supporters should consider whether the price of keeping Gonzales in office will be the surrender of important policies in order to try to appease his critics. ...Alberto Gonzales could yet become a liability on matters more important than he is."
Professional Clinton hater / civil libertarian Bob Barr (to Rolling Stone): "He should resign. This is the last straw in a whole series of — what was the name of the Lemony Snicket movie? — “Unfortunate Events” that have raised serious questions about the lack of leadership at the Department of Justice and there being too-cozy a relationship between an attorney general and the president."
Unnamed GOP strategist to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux: “Wolf, I have to tell you, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who are friends of those here at the White House and GOP strategists. They want Gonzales gone. They’re putting a lot of pressure on this president. One of them said, look, Gonzales has a constituency of one, and that is the president. But tonight, Wolf, White House officials who I’ve spoken to say that that is exactly the person who’s saving his job, that the president does not intend to let him go.”
Named GOP strategist Ed Rollins (on CBS News' The Early Show):
"It's certainly the President's prerogative but I would argue that he should go," Rollins said of Gonzales. "I think at this point in time they are losing support of Republican Senators by the day and the president desperately needs their support."
When asked what the best way is for the White House to move beyond the scandal, Rollins replied, "The best way is for Gonzales to resign and move on and put someone of great credibility in there."
Republican Congressman Dana Rohrbacher: "Even for Republicans, this is a warning sign … saying there needs to be a change," said Rohrbacher. "Maybe the president should have an attorney general who is less a personal friend and more professional in his approach."
Republican Senator John Sununu: "The president should fire the attorney general and replace him as soon as possible with someone who can provide strong, aggressive leadership prosecuting the war on terrorism, running the Department of Justice, and working with the president and Congress on important homeland security matters."
Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon: ""For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful" if Gonzales resigned..."
Meanwhile, CBS News interviewed one of the fired prosecutors, David Iglesias, who is now charging a full on political purge in his case:
"I believe I was fired because I did not play ball with two members of the Republican delegation here in New Mexico. I did not give them privileged information that could have been used in the October and November time frame."
Another of the fired prosecutors, H.E. "Bud" Cummins, a lifelong Republican who was pretty soft on the administration during his Congressional testimony (and who was replaced in his post in Little Rock Arkansas in order to make way for Karl Rove's pet hatchet-man/dirt digger/voter suppression expert Tim Griffin, just as a certain Senator who used to be first lady of Arkansas is running for president...) has apparently changed his mind. His interview with TPM Muckraker takes a much harder line on the Bushies: "I've heard every one of the [Justice Department's "performance related" issues with the other dismissed US attorneys], and I'm completely convinced at this point that they are fabricated assertions, and that they were in no way on the table when the decisions to dismiss those seven USAs were made..." And in addition:
"I gave them the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this. They told me directly that my case was completely different from the others, that there were significant performance issues involved in the other decisions, and if I saw, I'd agree that they'd have to go.
Now that I've seen the decisions, not only don't I see why they had to go, I see that [the charges of performance issues] are really not true."
And now, the piece de resistance: Al Gonzales' latest problem, via the reporting of the National Journal, is his apparent conflict of interest during the investigation of the NSA wiretap leaks:
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reportedly advised President George W. Bush on a federal inquiry even after learning his own actions might be probed.
Citing government records and interviews, the National Journal reported Thursday that, shortly before he advised Bush in 2006 on whether to shut down a Justice Department investigation into the administration's warrant less domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the inquiry.
Bush shut down the Justice Department investigation in April 2006 by denying investigators security clearances they would have needed to examine the eavesdropping program.
It was unclear whether Bush knew at the time that the inquiry -- which was to have been conducted by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility -- would likely examine Gonzales' conduct, the newspaper said. Sources familiar with the matter told the Journal that if the probe had been permitted to continue, it would have scrutinized Gonzales' role in authorizing the eavesdropping program while he was White House counsel, and his oversight of the program as attorney general.
Tick ... tick ... tick, Alberto... and your little Harriet, too...
ABC News updates the Gonzales scandal, and the close connection between the Karl Rove political chop shop and the supposedly apolitical Justice Department:
March 15, 2007 — New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.
The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.
The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.
Two independent sources in a position to know have described the contents of the e-mail exchange, which could be released as early as Friday. They put Rove at the epicenter of the imbroglio and raise questions about Gonzales' explanations of the matter.
The e-mail exchange is dated early January 2005, more than a month before the White House acknowledged it was considering firing all the U.S. attorneys. On its face, the plan is not improper, inappropriate or even unusual: The president has the right to fire U.S. attorneys at any time, and presidents have done so when they took office.
The White House spin machine appears to have completely broken down on this one.
Much to the dismay of rational foreign policy thinkers everywhere, the recalcitrant neocons have not gone away. In fact, they're not a bit sorry for the mess they've made of George W. Bush's presidency, let alone Iraq. But why? One reason: it's who they are. It's helpful to remember that behind every good neocon, is a major oil company, much the way the primo neocon think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (the key backer of, and the organization that rents space to, the PNAC folks), is funded in large measure by Exxon Mobile. The neocons are useful intellectuals laboring, whether knowingly or unknowlingly, to give frame and meaning to a policy that really amounts to resource plunder on a grand, grand scale.
Obama to Edwards: "aren't you cute" ... I'm guessing Edwards' reply would probably rhyme with "bite me" ... oh, okay, it WOULD BE "bit me..."
Meanwhile, Barack and Hillary get a bit hung up on the issue of the morality of gay lifestyles.
And as if it wasn't enough for Democrats to have to watch out for the real Fox News and Bill O'Reilly, now, apparently, they have to beware of the fake one as well...
The Senate's Republican minority beats back yet another attempt to craft an Iraq pullout plan, thanks to the Bush-backing votes of Democratoc Sematprs Nelson (Nebraska) and Pryor (Arkansas) and the perennial Bushophile, Joe Lieberman. On an up note, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon voted with the Dems. Maybe we could do a trade -- give us Smith and hand "Shuck 'n Joe" over to the GOP.
Meanwhile, the Senate, by an 86-16 vote, passed a resolution pledging not to cut off funds for the war. Only 16 Senators voted against the resolution.
Clearly, despite the big win last November, the Dems simply do not have the votes to stop this surge, let alone the war. The answer: get rid of more Republican Senators next election day (a Lieberman recall wouldn't hurt, either...)
The sinking of the Lucitania ... the attacks on Pearl Harbor ... the Lindbergh baby kidnapping ... the JFK assassination ... the attacks of 9/11 ... 3/11 ... Bali ... the deadly Western wildfires ... the bird flu ... simple, chronic hallitosis ... what do all of these evils have in common? They were the evil brainchildren of the true terror mastermind of all time ... the universally guilty ... the human confessional ... Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Through the crack efforts of the Bush administration's war on terror, al-Qaida's umpteenth "number two" has confessed to all ... and I do mean ALL:
WASHINGTON - Suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl and a central role in 30 other attacks and plots in the U.S. and worldwide that killed thousands of victims, said a revised transcript released Thursday by the U.S. military.
"I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan," Mohammed is quoted as saying in a transcript of a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, released by the Pentagon.
"For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head," he added.
Mohammed's claimed involvement in the 2002 slaying of the Wall Street Journal reporter was among 31 attacks and plots — some of which never occurred — he took responsibility for in a hearing Saturday at the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said.
... leading to the obvious question: what hasn't the evil sheikh confessed to???
1. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City.
2. The September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in Washington.
3. A shoe bomber operation to bring down two US commercial airplanes.
4. The Filka Island operation in Kuwait that killed two American soldiers.
5. The deadly bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia.
6. Planning a “second wave” of attacks on major US landmarks in the wake of the September 11, with targets including the Library Tower in California, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank building in Washington state and the Empire State Building in New York.
7. Planning and financing operations to destroy US military vessels and oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Gibraltar, and in Singapore.
8. A plan to blow up the Panama Canal.
9. An assassination attempt against former US President Jimmy Carter, as well as other former presidents.
10. A plot to blow up suspension bridges in New York.
11. A plan to burn fuel trucks beneath or around the Sears Tower in Chicago in order to destroy it.
12. Plotting to destroy targets in London, including Heathrow Airport, Canary Wharf and Big Ben.
13. Attacks on night clubs in Thailand frequented by Americans and Britons.
14. A plot targeting the New York Stock Exchange and other US finance industry targets post 9/11.
15. A plan to use airplanes flying from Saudi Arabia to attack and destroy buildings in Elat, Israel.
16. Planned attacks to destroy American embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan.
17. Attacks on Israel’s embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia.
18. An attack on an Israeli El-Al Airlines flight from Bangkok.
19. Sending several Mujahidin into Israel to survey “strategic targets" deep in the country.
20. The deadly suicide bombing of a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, frequented by Jewish travellers in November 2002.
21. The failed attempt to down an Israeli jet taking off from an airport in Mombasa with an SA-7 surface-to-air missile.
22. A plot to attack American military bases and nightclubs frequented by US soldiers in South Korea.
23. Providing the financial support to attack US, British and Jewish targets in Turkey.
24. Surveillance undertaken for a plan to hit nuclear power plants that generate electricity in several US states.
25. A plot to attack Nato headquarters in Europe.
26. The 1995 Bojinka Operation to down 12 American planes full of passengers flying between mostly Pacific Rim airports. Personally monitored a round-trip from Manila to Seoul on Pan Am Airlines.
27. An assassination attempt planned against the former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in the mid-1990s.
28. A separate assassination plot to kill Pope John Paul II while he visited the Philippines.
29. Plans to assassinate Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
30. An attempt to destroy an American oil company that operates on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, owned by the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
(Sigh) ... so many terror plots, so little torture time...
Mr. Mohammed, now that you have gotten so much off your chest, kindly tell us where Jimmy Hoffa is buried, and maybe ... just maybe ... we'll ask our real life Jack Bauers to stop torturing you... maybe...
Who is Sanjaya Malakar sleeping with ... and how can we get him ... or perhaps her ... deported...?
No, seriously, it helps to remember that 'American Idol' isn't really a singing competition, it's a reality show, and every year, the producers assemble a cast of 'Real World' worthy characters (typically short-handed as, "the fat guy," "the punk rock chick," "the rock guy," "the teen idol," "the black girl who really can sing but gets voted off way to early" etc.) This year, they just happened to get lucky and find two really great singers to go along with the pack. Lakisha and Melinda ARE this year's show. All the rest, is pure Sanjaya.
John McCain will be there, as will Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and half a dozen other presidential candidates. But when firefighters hold a candidates' forum today in Washington, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the contender most closely identified with their profession, will not attend.
In the past several days, a private tussle over Giuliani's participation — he was out, then in, then out again — has turned into a public spat with the International Association of Fire Fighters. That, in turn, has highlighted an uncomfortable paradox of Giuliani's campaign.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, when he was mayor of New York City, he has been linked in the public mind to firefighters and police officers, whom he regularly hails as heroes as he campaigns around the country.
Yet the firefighters and police officers who know Giuliani best, those in New York City, have mixed views of him, ranging from admiration to outright hostility.
That has filtered through to leaders of their national associations accusing Giuliani of trying to cut short the effort to find victims' remains in the trade center wreckage.
They also contend that his administration mishandled the development of a radio system that could have saved lives on 9/11, and that he blundered in putting the city's emergency command center in the trade center.
The White House takes one small step away from Alberto Gonzales. Regarding Gonzales' press conference yesterday in which he refused to resign over the U.S. attorney firings:
[Gonzales’] appearance underscored what two Republicans close to the Bush administration described as a growing rift between the White House and the attorney general. Mr. Gonzales has long been a confidant of the president but has aroused the ire of lawmakers of both parties on several issues, including the administration’s domestic eavesdropping program.
The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.
“I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,” one of the Republicans said. [Source: New York Times]
Meanwhile, the NYT reports that a single factor mattered more to the White House and A.G.'s office than any other -- not effectiveness, or competence, or aggressiveness, or skill, but rather loyalty. A familiar tune to anyone who has followed the Bushes, and not coincidentally, the key factor in both Harriet Miers and Al Gonzales getting their current jobs.
WASHINGTON, March 13 — Late in the afternoon on Dec. 4, a deputy to Harriet E. Miers, then the White House counsel and one of President Bush’s most trusted aides, sent a two-line e-mail message to a top Justice Department aide. “We’re a go,” it said, approving a long-brewing plan to remove seven federal prosecutors considered weak or not team players.
The message, from William K. Kelley of the White House counsel’s office to D. Kyle Sampson, the chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, put in motion a plan to fire United States attorneys that had been hatched 22 months earlier by Ms. Miers. Three days later, the seven prosecutors were summarily dismissed. An eighth had been forced out in the summer.
The documents provided by the Justice Department add some new details to the chronicle of the fired prosecutors but leave many critical questions unanswered, including the nature of discussions inside the White House and the level of knowledge and involvement by the president and his closest political aide, Karl Rove.
The White House said Monday that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove had raised concerns about lax voter fraud prosecutions with the Justice Department. And several of the fired attorneys told Congress last week that some lawmakers had questioned them about corruption investigations, inquiries the prosecutors considered inappropriate. The documents do not specifically mention either topic.
While the target list of prosecutors was shaped and shifted, officials at the Justice Department and the White House, members of Congress and even an important Republican lawyer and lobbyist in New Mexico were raising various concerns.
In rating the prosecutors, Mr. Sampson factored in whether they “exhibited loyalty to the president and attorney general,” according to documents released by the Justice Department. In one e-mail message, Mr. Sampson questioned a colleague about the record of the federal prosecutor in San Diego, Carol C. Lam. Referring to the office of the deputy attorney general, Mr. Sampson wrote: “Has ODAG ever called Carol Lam and woodshedded her re immigration enforcement? Has anyone?” Ms. Lam was one of the seven fired prosecutors.
Two others, Paul K. Charlton in Arizona and Daniel K. Bogden in Nevada, were faulted as being “unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them,” according to another e-mail message to Mr. Sampson, referring to pornography prosecutions.
Another United States attorney, David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, was added to the hit list in the fall of 2006 after criticism from his home state, including a demand by Senator Pete V. Domenici, a Republican, to meet with the attorney general to discuss the performance of Mr. Iglesias’s office.
The fallout from the firings came swiftly, according to the documents. Within a day, messages were flying between the White House and the Justice Department about reaction to the dismissals. Administration officials were aware that the decisions were likely to be controversial, and the plan for carrying them out included a warning to “prepare to withstand political upheaval.” ...
And now that the upheaval has begun, the weak defense of Gonzales is what has commenced. It may not last. He may well suffer the same fate as the eight prosecutors he and the other Clones forced out.
... no, not him (although that might not be such a bad idea) ... the one in the front...
So Alberto Gonzales has taken responsibility for the controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys from across the country last December 7th. Good, so he should agree than, that the party responsible should resign. But so far, he is refusing to do so. Meanwhile, his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has done just that.
As Chuck Schumer and others have said, Gonzales' main problem is that he somehow never got the memo (though he sent the Torture Memo) that he is now the lawyer for the American people, not for President Bush. He continues to act as his personal flunky, and as GWU constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley puts it, his chief enabler. Well, the enabling must stop. Gonzales is an incompetant A.G., and the extent to which he has allowed his office to become politicized -- complete with instructions from Karl Rove on which attorneys to fire -- makes him a disgrace to his office.
There is a cloud over the Justice Department.
It's time from George W. Bush to fire it.
Meanwhile, there's new information on the Pearl Harbor Day Massacre. Apparently, it preceded according to a carefully laid out five-point plan for getting rid of seven of them:
Entitled, "Plan for Replacing Certain United States Attorneys," the step-by-step instructions were sent by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, as an attachment to an e-mail. Sampson resigned Tuesday. The e-mail was released Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.
Steps 1 and 2: On Dec. 7, the Justice Department was to simultaneously notify the Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, as well as those dismissed.
In his calls to the prosecutors, Mike Battle, who oversees all 93 U.S. attorneys, was to say that the administration is grateful for their service but decided to "give someone else the opportunity" to serve in the post starting in Jan. 31, 2007, according to the memo.
Step 3 was prescient, its title underscored: "Prepare to Withstand Political Upheaval." It predicted the fired prosecutors would make "strenuous" efforts to save their jobs by appealing to other officials in the Bush administration. The memo contained responses to likely questions from those fired.
"Recipients of such 'appeals' must respond identically," the memo said, as follows:
"-What? U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president (there is no right nor should there be any expectation that U.S. attorneys would be entitled to serve beyond their four-year term).
"-Who decided? The administration made the determination to seek the resignations (not any specific person at the White House or the Department of Justice).
"-Why me? The administration is grateful for your service, but wants to give someone else the chance to serve in your district.
"-I need more time! The decision is to have a new acting or interim U.S. attorney in place by January 31, 2007 (granting "extensions" will hinder the process of getting a new U.S. attorney in place and giving that person the opportunity to serve for a full two years)."
Steps four and five directed Justice Department officials to name replacements and submit them for Senate confirmation.
The email was sent by Sampson, to Associate Attorney General William Mercer and White House officials William K. Kelley and Harriet Miers (wouldn't you know SHE'd be involved...)
And RawStory has more documents detailing the White House plan, including more on Miers' involvement...
A March 2005 attachment sent to former White House Counsel and onetime Supreme Court nominee Harriet draws lines through the names of US Attorneys described as "Recommend removing" because they are "ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against administration initiatives."
In Jan. 2006, one e-mail notes that Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who recently had an ethics complaint filed against him, had contacted the Attorney General to "discuss the criminal 'docket and caseload' in New Mexico." The e-mail subsequently includes a detailed report on the activities of the US Attorney for New Mexico, part of which is a lengthy Power Point presentation.
A Sep. 13, 2006, e-mail, sent to Miers makes note of five US Attorneys "we now should consider pushing out," as well as one "in the process of being pushed out."
Sampson first makes note of his political concerns about the tactic in this message, saying "I am only in favor of executing...if we really are ready and willing to put in the time necessary to select candidates and get them appointed." The message also refers to sidestepping "home-State senators" and carrying out the plan "at less political cost to the White House."
Four days later, Miers promises to follow up. In her original Sep. 13 query to Sampson, she asks for "current thinking on holdover US attorneys."
On Sept. 20, Brent Ward, current head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Obscenity Prosecution Task Force, wrote to Sampson and complained, "We have two US attorneys who are unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them." Sampson says replacing them should go through "normal channels."
Nearly two months later, on Nov. 15, Sampson writes to White House staffers again, including Miers, and repeats his concerns with "political upheaval that could result" and refers to circulating it "to Karl's shop," presumably referring to White House political adviser Karl Rove.
This e-mail includes an attachment with a detailed strategy plan for forcing out six US Attorneys in Arizona, California, Michigan, Nevada, Washington, and New Mexico; contacting senators (or the home-state Bush "political-lead" if there is no Republican senator in the state in question); preparations for "political upheaval;" and selection of "interim" candidates, which is followed by the normal US Attorney selection process. ...
Gonzales is now calling the firings "mishandled" ... but his problems go much deeper than that.
These U.S. attorneys appear to have been fired because they wouldn't yield to political pressure in the carrying out of their duties. Gonzales approved this political putsch. The deputy fall guy isn't enough. Gonzales should be fired, yesterday.
Update: White House COS Dan Bartlett just gave a press conference in which he tried to spin the David Iglesias firing as justified by his not pursuing voter fraud cases vigorously enough. Not gonna wash, dear. Time for a special prosecutor.
Update 2: New evidence courtesy of TPMM indicates that Karl Rove's deputy, Scott Jennings, was also involved in the removal of members of the Gonzales Eight.
And bad news for Alberto: support for him among Republicans and conservatives so far appears to be weak. Remember when Bush was considering putting him on the Supreme Court? The antipathy from that period may not have died down...
An impolite question: don't ask, don't talk to the newspapers
Does General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have the right to his own opinion about the morality or homosexuality, or adultery, for that matter? Pace so far has released a statement regretting that he aired his personal views in expressing support for the military's Don's Ask, Don't Tell policy on gays serving openly in the military, but not apologizing. First, what Pace said to get himself in so much hot water:
"I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in the audio recording of the interview posted on the Tribune's Web site. "I do not believe that the armed forces of the United States are well served by a saying through our policies that it's OK to be immoral in any way."
Pace, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, said he based his views on his upbringing.
"As an individual, I would not want (acceptance of gay behavior) to be our policy, just like I would not want it to be our policy that if we were to find out that so-and-so was sleeping with somebody else's wife, that we would just look the other way, which we do not. We prosecute that kind of immoral behavior," he said, according to the audio and a transcript released by his staff.
...To me, the first test is whether there's a victim; whether the act causes significant harm to other people; kills, injures, takes advantage of or otherwise exploits or deprives them for no good purpose.
Such acts tend to be illegal -- murder, theft and so on. But certain legal, self-destructive acts -- gambling or drinking to such excess that you burden your family, friends and community -- are also arguably immoral in my view. Adultery. Lying to gain personal advantage. I will not name them all.
... It's immoral to have sex before marriage, some say, because acceptance of pre-marital sex weakens the bonds of family that ultimately hold society together.
Similarly, the non-scriptural argument I've heard saying homosexuality is immoral has to do with its biological purposelessness -- a version of the "what if everybody did it?" gambit. Homosexuality doesn't propagate the species and is therefore not constructive. If universally practiced, it would bring an end to humankind.
The same is true of celibacy, of course, though no one attacks that as immoral.
And the truth is that it will never be universally practiced and will never have a significant impact on the world's population. As is, homosexuality seems fairly benign to me -- not my thing, but not my business, either.
That's a good argument, but I would throw in one caveat. Morality is a highly personal idea. What I might consider immoral, you might consider to be perfectly acceptable. It all depends on myriad factors, like upbringing, religious inculcation, etc. So it is possible for someone like Pace to have the personal opinion that homosexuality is immoral, without there being some larger imperative that he explain why it is so. On the question of how that morality is defined, for the religious person, it could be as simple as, "because the Bible proscribes against it." That may not wash with everyone, but it really doesn't have to.
Perhaps some people use the world "immoral" when they really mean "distasteful" -- I think a lot of heterosexuals, especially men, find the idea of homosexual sex to be ... well ... gross, and so they lump it in with immorality. And I think many religious people classify gay sex as immoral because in their view, it lures healthy males away from the procreative life. And then there are the concerns that adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types, bringing them "into the lifestyle" in a way that many people consider to be immoral. (Ditto with gay rights groups that seek to organize very young, impressionable teens who may have an inclination that they are gay...)
That's the best I can do in answering the columnist's challenge. As for Pace, I think he's entitled to his opinion, and his statement regretting that he aired his personal views should suffice.
Meanwhile, Pace is getting criticism from the Hill, but the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is getting support from the Sec Def.
13 March 1979, Radio Free Grenada, Maurice Bishop, Address to the Nation Brothers and Sisters,
This is Maurice Bishop speaking.
At 4.15 am this morning, the People's Revolutionary Army seized control of the army barracks at True Blue.
The barracks were burned to the ground. After half-an-hour struggle, the forces of Gairy's army were completely defeated, and surrendered.
Every single soldier surrendered, and not a single member of the revolutionary forces was injured.
At the same time, the radio station was captured without a shot being fired. Shortly after this, several cabinet ministers were captured in their beds by units of the revolutionary army.
A number of senior police officers, including Superintendent Adonis Francis, were also taken into protective custody.
At this moment, several police stations have already put up the white flag of surrender.
Revolutionary forces have been dispatched to mop up any possible source of resistance or disloyalty to the new government.
I am now calling upon the working people, the youths, workers, farmers, fishermen, middle-class people, and women to join our armed revolutionary forces at central positions in your communities and to give them any assistance which they call for.
Virtually all stations have surrendered. I repeat. We restress, resistance will be futile. don't be misled by Bogo DeSouze or Cosmos Raymond into believing that there are any prospects of saving the dictator Gairy. ... [From The Grenada Revolution Online
So began the revolution in Grenada, on March 13, 1979. It preceded much like leftist revolutions everywhere -- beginning with wild-eyed idealism, as the "autocratic" capitalists were dethroned, and the "people's revolutionary government (PRG)" promised shared wealth, equality and brotherhood. And of course, it wound up with the revolutionaries, in this case, the NJM or New Jewel Movement, soon turning autocratic, paranoid, increasingly brutal, and worst of all, permanent.
The leader of the NJM, Maurice Bishop, was installed as the new prime minister, but his deputy, Bernard Coard, quickly subsumed him and seized power, as his faction of the revolutionaries demanded strict obediance to the revolution, while Bishop waivered, on the increasing placement of Soviet bases on the Spice Isle, on the driving away of investors and business partners like the Royal Bank of Canada (which abandoned Grenada and was then taken over at the selling price of $1 by the revolutionary council) and of the increasingly close ties with Cuba, which was sending advisors to the island. Bishop was under pressure from the U.S. and other quarters to ban the Cuban ambassador from attending cabinet meetings. When he relented, he lost favor with the Cubans, the Soviets, and the hard-line revolutionaries of the People's Revolutionary Movement under his deputy, Mr. Coard.
On October 13, 1983, Coard pulled a coup of his own, accusing Bishop of not being a "true revolutionary" and placing him and his cabinet under house arrest. Weary of the increasing oppression by Coard's faction, including curfews, shop closures and strict limits on free expression, and clearly preferring the seemingly well meaning Bishop over the harsh Coard, some 25,000 Grenadians took to the streets, overpowering the guards and freeing Bishop and his cabinet, only to have government troops in armored personnel carriers arrive and blitz the crowd with gunfire (forcing many to jump to their deaths from the high prison walls) and execute Bishop and the others against a wall on which the phrase "TOWARDS GREATER DISCIPLINE IN THE PEOPLE'S REVOLUTIONARY ARMY" was written (source: WTPS news reporter and longtime Grenadian radio personality Edward Frederick.)
My colleague at the station, Eddie Frederick (above) has written extensively on this subject, providing chilling details of what led up to the counter-revoltuion and invasion by the Reagan administration, and a coalition of Caribbean states, which were so outraged by the executions and draconian actions of the Coard faction that they banished Grenada from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and led to several Caribbean nations, including Jamaica and Barbados, breaking off diplomatic ties.
The U.S. used the chaos, and the rather paltry excuse of some 700 American students "stranded" in Grenada, as a pretext to invasion (as it turns out, against the advice and wishes of Ms. Thatcher's England). Ronald Reagan at the time was dealing with twin crises, in the Western hemisphere and also in the east -- where U.S. Marines were battened down in Lebanon and revolution was also continuing to vex the U.S. in the Persian empire of Iran (the Shah, Reza Pahlevi, having been overthrown by the Ayatollists in 1979).
The U.S. invasion, alongside Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, commenced on October 25, 1983. It lasted just a few days, and resulted in 19 U.S. and 45 Grenadian military deaths, two dozen civilian deaths, and 116 U.S. and more than 350 Grenadian wounded. Cuba, which was caught somewhat flat footed by the U.S. invasion, lost 25 of its soldiers, had 59 wounded and more than 640 taken prisoner. Much of the world condemned the U.S. action, but many Grenadians were grateful to the U.S. for freeing them from Coard's despotism.
That's the nuts and bolts of the story. It's a tale of the dangers of "revolution" -- which rarely winds up having much to do with the people, and everything to do with a mad scramble for power.
I rather disliked Ronald Reagan, but looking back, I can sort of see the case for the Grenada invasion (though there was no pressing U.S. national interest. At that time, during the Cold War, Grenada looked like another domino the U.S. had to keep from falling into Castro, and thus Soviet, hands. Perhaps it was a show of force as against our relative weakness in the Middle East, or an attempt to cool the fires of populist revolution throughout the world.
Whatever the reason, the invasion of Grenada allowed the U.S. to flex its military might for what would be the next to last time. After that, victories in the Persian Gulf in 1991 and the Balkans during the Clinton years would be undone by the complete castration of U.S. Middle East policy and military hegemony by one George W. Bush, who failed to learned the Reaganite lesson: if you're going to use the United States military on a weak, small country, you'd damned better beat them. The U.S. sent 7,000 troops to fight 1,500 Grenadian regulars and 600 Cuban engineers. And they spared nothing in winningthe war quickly, decisively, and overwhelmingly. Big difference.
We'll be talking about Grenada tomorrow on the show, including with Eddie. Worth tuning in, if I do say so myself.
Update, Tuesday, March 15: I was talking with Ed this morning and he added yet another wrinkle. It seems there remains some doubt in Grenada as to the real truth about Mr. Coard's alleged wrongdoing, and whether he and his cohorts in fact ordered the executions of the wildly popular Mr. Bishop and his cabinet. There is some conspiracy theorizing on the island, even today, as to whether Mr. Coard was, in a sense, the subject of a superpower frame up. Coard and his cohorts remain in prison today.
Subprime lender New Century Financial is on the brink of bankruptcy, as the housing bubble keeps leaking and ARM loans begin imploding...
The announcement about the announcement. One word to Chuck Hagel: "Huh???" I await the dirt on what REALLY happened to make him back down today. Desperate call from a fellow Vietnam vet, perhaps from the bathroom of the Straight Talk Express... perhaps...?
Meanwhile, Fred Thompson could bring something different to the party ... let's see... he's anti gay marriage, anti-abortion, and for Bush's escalation in Iraq, so it's not that ... hm ... oh, that's right, he's an actor! ... he's on "Law and Order," you know ... and he was that hillarious judge in "My Cousin Vinny!"
Meanwhile, the vigorousness of the Draft Fred movement ... okay, maybe "vigorousness" isn't a word, or an accurate description ... could be rooted in the fact that GOPers currently have no good choices in the primary beauty pageant. I mean, three adulterers, two nobodies and a Mormon flip-flopper isn't exactly a field of dreams...
The Pearl Harbor Day massacre: the Rove connection
The firing of eight U.S. attorneys has links to the White House, and specifically to Karl Rove, who was personally asked to fire at least one of the seven who were dismissed last December 7th (the eight was forced out in October.) McClatchy Newspapers report:
WASHINGTON - Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction in part with his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.
In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Allen Weh, the party chairman, said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House.
"Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" Weh said he asked Rove at a White House holiday event that month.
"He's gone," Rove said, according to Weh.
"I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah,'" said Weh.
Weh's account calls into question the Justice Department's stance that the recent decision to fire Iglesias and seven U.S. attorneys in other states was a personnel matter - made without White House intervention. Justice Department officials have said the White House's involvement was limited to approving a list of the U.S. attorneys after the Justice Department made the decision to fire them. ...
..."The facts speak for themselves," Iglesias said, when he was told of Weh's account of his conversation with Rove.
Weh's disclosure comes as Congress investigates the circumstances behind the firings of the U.S. attorneys, most of whom had positive job evaluations, including Iglesias. Democrats have charged the Bush administration tried to inject partisan politics into federal prosecutions in order to influence election outcomes.
The saga continues, with more Conressional hearings this week.
Scooter Libby's conviction on perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI provided some satisfaction to those of us who have long believed that the current administration has been, since its inception, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to mislead Congress and the American people into supporting an invasion of Iraq, for the purpose of taking over that country's natural resources and controlling it currency. But the core question, which remains under debate, is whether there was an underlying crime, beyond Libby's lying lips. Bush supporters and conservatives (there is a distinction these days) argue that no such underlyng crime occurred, because, they insist, Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, having been out of the field for more than five years. They argue that this was a case about perfectly legitimate "push back" by the administration against critics of its pre-war claims, which got elevated when put into the hands of an overzealous prosecutor (exactly the flip side of their Clinton-era argument, which stated that lying and obstruction WERE the underlying crimes...)
But those of us on the other side have argued that first, Valerie Plame WAS a covert agent, otherwise the CIA would not have gone to the Justice Department to demand an investigation of her outing. Further, the stamp of "secret" that accompanied the memo to then Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Plame's status speaks to how crucial her work was considered to the national security operations of the United States. Thirdly, critics of the administration have concluded that Libby only would have put himself in such legal jeopardy if he deemed it important to protect someone higher up -- in this case, the vice president -- from public disclosures that could damage him, either politically or legally. In fact, the Libby jury seems to have concluded that Libby did, in fact, become the willing fall guy, either for Karl Rove, or for Dick Cheney, or for someone else.
So we're back to the quetsion at hand: Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney went to great lengths to see that Valerie Plame's identity wound up in the newspapers. Why?
I have come to the conclusion that Cheney and Libby became so desperate to refute Joe Wilson, not so much because they thought he was a threat, but bcasue they saw his disclosures -- his very presence in Niger -- as the latest challenge from a recalcitrant CIA, which had been fighting the administration the whole way on Iraq intelligence. Outing Valerie Plame wasn't about punishing Joe Wilson, or about hurting Valerie Plame -- it was about slapping down the CIA, impeding its work on finding the truth about WMD (something Plame had dedicated her work to) and stopping any additional CIA officials from daring to challenge Bush, Cheney or their operatives inside the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans on the subject of Iraq's WMD or supposed nuclear programs.
Last week, we had 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern on the program for the second time. He made much the same point on the air, and does so in his latest piece for Common Dreams. McGovern writes:
CIA analysts were still insisting, correctly, that there were no meaningful ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, despite Tenet's acquiescence to Powell's request that Tenet sit behind him on camera as Powell wove his web of half- and un-truths at the UN. (Watching Tenet sit impassively as Powell spoke of a "sinister nexus" between al-Qaeda and Iraq was a tremendous blow to the morale of the courageous analysts who had resisted that particular recipe for cooking intelligence. As for their colleagues working on WMD, most of them had long since been pressured to cave in to Cheney's pressure during the dozen visits he made to CIA headquarters and were not as incensed.)
No trace had been found of weapons of mass destruction. In some quarters (even in the corporate press) the casus belli had morphed into a casus bellylaughi. Reports in Fox News that Saddam had somehow transported his WMD to Syria undetected (or maybe buried them in the desert) elicited widespread ridicule. Constant reminders of how difficult it is to find something in such a large country as Iraq - "the size of California" - were wearing thin. The attempt to associate uranium enrichment with the (in)famous aluminum tubes had, well, gone down the tubes. And the "mobile biological weapons laboratories," initially applauded by the president himself as proof the administration had found the WMD, turned out to be balloon-making machines for artillery practice, as the Iraqis had said. It was getting very embarrassing.
So this new challenge from Joe Wilson and his obnoxiously expert wife made for a very bad hair day. Cheney readily saw it as payback by honest CIA professionals for all the crass arm-twisting they had experienced at the hands of Cheney and kemosabe Libby. It is not hard to put oneself in Cheney's frame of mind as he witnessed the gathering storm.
Worst of all, the Iraq-Niger caper was particularly damaging, since it was tied directly to the office of the vice president. There was that unanswered question regarding who commissioned the forgery in the first place. And not even Judy Miller could help this time, since most thinking folks knew her to be a shill for the Bush administration.
And yet this insubordination, this deliberate sabotage, had to be answered. Something had to be done, and quickly, so that others privy to sensitive information about the litany of lies leading up to the war would not think they could follow Wilson's example and go to the press. ...
But wait, there's more. Because ultimately, Plamegate was about protecting the administration from an even more damaging truth -- that they probably knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction long before they made the decision to invade, and the decision to invade was itself made long before 9/11 provided the excuse. A second piece from Common Dreams, by investigative reporter Dave Lindorf, breaks it down:
way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationary and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationary from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?
Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.
We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iraq almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.
They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.
But according to some dedicated investigative reporters at the respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they resurfaced before long at a very suspicious meeting. This meeting occurred in December 2001 in Rome, and included Michael Ledeen, an associate of Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith and a key figure in the White House's war-propaganda program, Larry Franklin, a top Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to two employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), convicted Iraqi bank swindler Ahmed Chalabi, then head of the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress, and Harold Rhode of the sinister Defense Department Office of Special Plans, that office set up by the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under Feith's direction to manufacture "evidence" to justify a war on Iraq. Also at this peculiar meeting were the heads of the Italian Defense Department and of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency.
According to La Repubblica, it was at that meeting that a plan was hatched to resurrect the forged Niger documents, and to give them credibility by recycling them through British intelligence.
And that is what Bush was referring to when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he famously frightened a nation by declaring, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Bush lyingly implied that this was new information, when in fact he knew--had to know--that the "evidence" in British hands was the same set of documents he had been offered by Berlusconi almost a year and a half earlier, which had been declared to be bogus. ...
That, my friends, is the real story behind Plamegate, and as Lindorf points out further down in the piece, it's right there, waiting for some enterprising mainstream media organization to uncover.
The question is, will anyone do so.
On Friday, Valerie Plame will testify before Henry Waxman's House committee on government reform. Let's hope that's the first step in getting the truth out. If it does emerge, it could mean there is incontrovertible proof that the president, the vice president, and key members of the administration committed high crimes -- lying to Congress, misleading the country into war, and, as we have seen the bribes and dollar unfold, engaging in war profiteering.
Kind of makes Monicagate look like a walk in the park.
Is it just about abortion, gay marriage, and conservative economics (and membership in the GOP)? Or would Jesus have commanded true Christians to care for the poor, for the environmetn, and for the victims of war? The debate is on.
Meanwhile, other Christian conservatives are asking whether the lionization of men who not only leave their wives, but who also humiliate them, is a bridge too far.
''He's probably the most famous, least known candidate for president we've had in a long time,'' said Warfield. ''This exposes a side of Giuliani most voters would have no idea about.''
Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land, for example, described Giuliani's breakup with Hanover as ''divorce on steroids.'' Hanover learned her husband was seeking a divorce from television after he announced the decision at a press conference.
''To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children -- that's rough,'' said Land. ''I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren't pro-choice and pro-gun control.'' Marital history and family values have been bubbling just below the surface of the Republican campaign for months.
At a GOP dinner in Missouri last month, Ann Romney said the biggest difference between her husband, Mitt, and his rivals was that ''he's had only one wife.''
As I've said numerous times before, once these people get to know Rudy Giuliani, I predict his popularity won't last.
But let's not give Romney a free pass yet. Evangelicals may also have to ask themselves whether they feel comfortable with a new convert to conservatism who for the last few years has been buying his way into respectability in their circles.
And that's not even to mention that cheating, lying, rank hypocrite, Newt Gingrich.
With all of that, and the corruption and scandals of both the administration and the formerly GOP-led congress, it's baffling to me why evangelicals can still credibly argue that being a Republican is a basic requirement for being a good Christian.
The real estate market is in a world of hurt, as the free borrowing that fueled the supposed Bush real estate boom is looking more like the dot com bubble of old. It's being felt in the private housing market, but also in the high end real estate market, with a Nicki Hilton controversy thrown in to boot. Not a good look.
Meanwhile, the Walter Reed privatization scandal expands, as it becomes increasingly clear that the rush to privatize military veteran care nearly destroyed the jewel in the Army's crown, and even led to the kind of bribery and contract grubbing that you saw with the CIA and Department of Defense in the Dusty Foggo scandal, which of course, also involved members of Congress. From the Boston Globe:
GREENBELT, Md. --A man has pleaded guilty in federal court to participating in a kickback scheme involving contracts at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
According to the plea agreement, from June 1999 to March 2002, Krachyna and an unnamed accomplice conspired to give kickbacks to a civilian contract specialist employed by the Army Medical Command. The unnamed official was responsible for procurement for the medical center.
The official helped Krachyna and his business partner secure government contracts worth as much as $1.4 million in exchange for a 10 percent cut, according to the plea agreement. Krachyna admitted paying the public official $10,000 to $30,000, according to the document.
So the contract to IAG Worldwide, a company whose directors include former KBR executives and former Treasury Secretary John Snow, meant that cleaning and facilities maintenance went to toadies who couldn't do the job, and other contractors came running for some of the gristle from the Bush table.
Way to spur an economic boom: plunder, theft, bribery and fraud, plus irrational exuberance and questionable lending processes. Only under Republicans.
Osama bin Laden turns 50, still free as a bird, thanks to the geniuses in Washington that brought you the Iraq war debacle, along with the incompetant government we installed in Afghanistan, and the dictatorship in Pakistan. Don't you just hate birthdays?
Update: Fox out of the henhouse and into the doghouse
The John Edwards campaign has done themselves proud in Nevada, and has finally forced the issue of Fox News Channel's Republican bias back into the mainstream. Kudos to them and to the members of the blogosphere who successfully yanked FNC out of the Democratic debate this August in Nevada. Here's the email sent to supporters from Team Edwards (specifically from deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince):
You may have heard by now that John Edwards was the first candidate to officially say no to the Fox News debate in Nevada -- and because of the hard work of so many grassroots and netroots Democrats, news is breaking tonight that Fox is out.
Fox has already started striking backat John for saying no. (There's a surprise - Fox attacking a Democrat.) Last night, Roger Ailes - the life-long Republican operative who is now Chairman of Fox News Channel - said that any candidate "who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake" and "is impeding freedom of speech and free press."
And John's not their only target. Tonight Fox News Vice President David Rhodes is telling news organizations not to get involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus because of "radical fringe" groups - meaning grassroots Democrats (that would be you) - who objected to Fox's long history of spreading Republican propaganda at the expense of Democratic leaders.
The whole right-wing is getting in on the attack; the Drudge Report is blaring the headline: "War! Dems Pull Out of Fox News Debate."
Enough is enough. It's time to send a clear message to Fox News and their allies that their right-wing talking points and temper tantrums won't go unchallenged anymore - when it comes to what Democrats should do in the Democratic primary, we'll decide - no matter what they report:
Fox News has already proven they have no intention of providing "fair and balanced" coverage of any Democrat in this election. [Emphasis added]
In recent weeks they have run blatant lies about Senator Obama's background. And Fox was only too happy to give Ann Coulter a platform to spew more hate a few days after her bigoted attack on Senator Edwards and the gay community.
Now it's time for Democrats to stand together and send a clear message to Roger Ailes, Fox News and all the rest of them: bias isn't balance, but turning tables is fair.
The truth is, Fox News can "report" whatever they want. And when it works for us, we'll deal with them on our terms. But this campaign is about responsibility and accountability, and we need to send the message to Fox that if they want to be the corporate mouthpiece of the Republican Party more than they want to be an impartial news outlet, they shouldn't expect Democrats to play along.
Good for you, Team Edwards.
Meanwhile, the right wing Las Vegas Review Journal blows the whistle on their own brethren, by labeling Fox News Channel, in relation to Democrats, as "their rivals' messenger." So it's okay if we "socialists" characterize Fox as the GOP's messenger from now on? I'm not sure Roger Ailes would appreciate your candor, Vegas. ... Man, these right wingers are stupid... Previous:
I'm watching the rebroadcast of Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings into the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre," and the following updates should be noted:
Apparently, the attempted intimidation of U.S. attorneys by members of Congress and the Bush administration went beyond the inappropriate phonecalls made by Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Senator Pete Domenici to then New Mexico U.S. attorney David Iglesias last October, both attempting to dig into sealed indictments against state Democratic officials. In addition to the pressure on Iglesias, who said the Domenici phonecall in particular made him feel "sick," there was also an attempt at direct intimidation of several of the fired prosecutors.
H.E. "Bud" Cummins, the Arkansas prosecutor dismissed to make room for a former Karl Rove deputy, received a phonecall in late February from Mike Elston, the chief of staff to deputy attorney general Paul McNulty. During the call, Elston informed Cummins that his comments to the Washington Post that past Saturday were most unwelcome, having come after Congress had already begun to inquire into the firitngs, forcing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to admit to a Congressional hearing that Cummins had been dismissed purely to help a political flak. Cummins was told that if he and his fellow firees continued to talk to the press, and if any of them began to cooperate with Congress (all had refused requests to testfy before the two judiciary committees) then the administration would consider that an "escalation of the conflict, meriting some unspecified form of retaliation" and that the DOJ might just take off the gloves in defending their actions, by releasing information unfavorable to the prosecutors' performance while in office.
Cummins took the call as a threat, or at least a "message," and sent an email to several of his colleagues, including the other three former U.S. attorneys who testified on Tuesday (Carol Lam, the California prosecutor dismissed after successfully prosecuting Duke Cunningham and indicting deputy CIA director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo for abusing his office, and his defense contractor buddy Brent Wilkes; Mr. Iglesias and John McKay of Washington State, who had received pressure via the chief of staff to GOP Congressman Doc Hastings, to investigate the razor thin margin of victory of the newly minted Democratic governor of that state ... Hastings is the ranking member on the House ethics committee, wouldn't you know...) Cummins submitted the email to the panel, and testified that he didn't feel it was a betrayal of Ellison to pass on the information, since he felt that the purpose of the call was to get him to pass the word to his colleagues, in order to preemptively shut them up. (McKay's response to the email was that it didn't make him feel intimidated, it made him mad, which is why he was sitting before the committee. The only one of the four who seemed intimidated at all, or at least protective of the administration, ws Ms. Lam, for reasons unknown.)
For his part, Cummins testified that he had intended to stay out of the political fray, and only talked to the Washington Post because the admnistration chose to attack his colleagues' performance while in office, and he wanted to defend their work, as well as the work of his former staff.
Further, Mr. Iglesias testified that he was told by a Justice Department official that his firing was determined "from on high."
The dismissals are bad enough. The attempted threats and intimidation may be criminal.
Update: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of RI asked a most pertinent question: what each of the four witnesses would do if a witness in a case they were prosecuting received a phonecall like the one Mr. Cummins got, from a subject in the case. All answered that they would refer the call for investigation for obstruction of justice, or in Ms. Lam's case, for witness tampering. Mr. Ellison should think seriously about that.
It should also be noted that all eight of the dismissed U.S. attorneys were nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, with the first crop of U.S. attorneys after September 11. They are all either Republicans or Independents, as Iglesias testified, appointed because they were considered political assets, not liabilities. How did they become liabilities five years later? By doing things unpopular with the Republican Congress and with their fellow poliical hacks in the White House. In addition, all had excellent evaluations of their work on record, with no recorded complaints from DOJ.
Update 2: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was the first Republican on the committee to begin swinging the hatchet on behalf of the Bush administration. True to the form which became familiar during the subservient 109th Congress, Sessions began his questioning by going after Ms. Lam's prosecutorial record with respect to gun cases, suggesting she was not upholding administration policy when compared with U.S. attorneys in other districts.
Likewise, Lindsey Graham is trying to save the administration by suggesting that the three witnesses had served unusually long terms in office.
...proving, once again, that there are no lengths Republican members of Congress won't go to in order to shill for the administration. One day, perhaps we'll discover the reason for this remarkable fealty.
RawStory has advance details of a coordinated effort under way to attack the Vietnam service and POW experience of Senator John McCain. Stipulating that I have no use for McCain -- in my opinion, he has morphed into an embarassing toadie to George W. Bush whose desperation to be president has rendered his judgment extremely suspect -- I have even less use for the swiftboat goons, whose sole purpose in life seems to be smearing brave men who wore the uniform at a time when many men -- including men they support (think Bush and Cheney), cut and ran. These people are dispicable. They need to get a life and leave the politics to sane people.
If you could manipulate the genes of your unborn child to assure that he or she would not be gay, would you? Would it be ethical? And if it were possible, should parents have that choice? It's an interesting moral question that's generating heat this week.
Sick of Fox News Channel's GOP bias, Bush worship and Democrat bashing? Boycott the bastards. John Edwards started the ball rolling, the Nevada Democratic Party finally picked it up. Drudge has what he says is a statement from Fox (of course he does ... he's their Washington bureau chief, right?):
“We have not received official word from the Nevada State Democratic Party disclosing a change in debate plans. Rumors are being circulated and if true, news organizations will want to think twice before getting involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus which appears to be controlled by radical fringe out-of-state interest groups, not the Nevada Democratic Party. In the past, Moveon.org has said they ‘own’ the Democratic party—while most Democrats don’t agree with that, we’re waiting to see if that’s the case in Nevada.” -- David Rhodes, Vice President, Fox News...
TV Newser has Roger Ailes' rant on the subject of "blacklisting!!!" Blacklisting, damnit!
Given the authority to invade the privacy of Americans for national security reasons after 9/11, the FBI promptly abused it:
WASHINGTON - The nation's top two law enforcement officials acknowledged Friday the FBI broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales left open the possibility of pursuing criminal charges against FBI agents or lawyers who improperly used the USA Patriot Act in pursuit of suspected terrorists and spies.
The FBI's transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.
The audit also concluded that the FBI for three years underreported to Congress how often it used national security letters to force businesses to turn over customer data. The letters are administrative subpoenas that do not require a judge's approval.
"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."
"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.
Under the Patriot Act, the national security letters give the FBI authority to demand that telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses produce personal records about their customers or subscribers. About three-fourths of the letters issued between 2003 and 2005 involved counterterror cases, with the rest for espionage investigations, the audit reported.
Shoddy record-keeping and human error were to blame for the bulk of the problems, said Justice auditors who were careful to note they found no indication of criminal misconduct.
Still, "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security letter authorities," the audit concluded.
Question, between this and the firings of the Gonzales Seven, why is Alberto Gonzales still employed?
Meanwhile, TPMM reports that the House Judiciary Committee probe of the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre" has moved to the White House:
The House Judiciary Committee requested a host of documents from the White House today related to the administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys. The committee is also seeking to interview at least one current official in the White House's counsel's office, William Kelley, Deputy Counsel to the President, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. (Former USA for Seattle John McKay has told reporters that, in a meeting with Kelley and Miers, he was asked about accusations that he had "mishandled" an investigation of Democratic voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial election.)
The committee sought the documents in a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding signed by Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Subcommittee Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA). By next Friday, March 16th, the committee wants all records of communications within the White House regarding the firings, all records of communications with members of Congress concerning the fired attorneys, the names of any members of Congress who were advance notice of the firings, and the names of anyone in the White House who was involved in the firings.
Jesus, it's so Nixonian, it even has Fred Fielding. You can check out the actual letter on TPMM's site.
And Greg Palast reports that one of the replacements -- Timoth Griffin, a political operative and former aide to Karl Rove who was airlifted into the U.S. attorney's office in Arkansas to replace , may actually be a criminal.
Griffin, according to BBC Television, was the hidden hand behind a scheme to wipe out the voting rights of 70,000 citizens prior to the 2004 election.
Key voters on Griffin’s hit list: Black soldiers and homeless men and women. Nice guy, eh? Naughty or nice, however, is not the issue. Targeting voters where race is a factor is a felony crime under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In October 2004, our investigations team at BBC Newsnight received a series of astonishing emails from Mr. Griffin, then Research Director for the Republican National Committee. He didn’t mean to send them to us. They were highly confidential memos meant only for RNC honchos.
However, Griffin made a wee mistake. Instead of sending the emails — potential evidence of a crime — to email addresses ending with the domain name “@GeorgeWBush.com” he sent them to “@GeorgeWBush.ORG.” A website run by prankster John Wooden who owns “GeorgeWBush.org.” When Wooden got the treasure trove of Rove-ian ravings, he sent them to us.
And we dug in, decoding, and mapping the voters on what Griffin called, “Caging” lists, spreadsheets with 70,000 names of voters marked for challenge. Overwhelmingly, these were Black and Hispanic voters from Democratic precincts.
The Griffin scheme was sickly brilliant. We learned that the RNC sent first-class letters to new voters in minority precincts marked, “Do not forward.” Several sheets contained nothing but soldiers, other sheets, homeless shelters. Targets included the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida and that city’s State Street Rescue Mission. Another target, Edward Waters College, a school for African-Americans.
If these voters were not currently at their home voting address, they were tagged as “suspect” and their registration wiped out or their ballot challenged and not counted. Of course, these ‘cages’ captured thousands of students, the homeless and those in the military though they are legitimate voters. We telephoned those on the hit list, including one Randall Prausa. His wife admitted he wasn’t living at his voting address: Randall was a soldier shipped overseas.
Randall and other soldiers like him who sent in absentee ballots, when challenged, would lose their vote. And they wouldn’t even know it.
And by the way, it’s not illegal for soldiers to vote from overseas — even if they’re Black.
But it is illegal to challenge voters en masse where race is an element in the targeting. So several lawyers told us, including Ralph Neas, famed civil rights attorney with People for the American Way.
Griffin himself ducked our cameras, but his RNC team tried to sell us the notion that the caging sheets were, in fact, not illegal voter hit lists, but a roster of donors to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. Republican donors at homeless shelters?
Over the past weeks, Griffin has said he would step down if he had to face Congressional confirmation. However, the President appointed Griffin to the law enforcement post using an odd little provision of the USA Patriot Act that could allow Griffin to skip Congressional questioning altogether.
After Giuliani pulled out of a planned appearance at an International Association of Firefighters presidential forum next week, the group released a stinging draft letter indicating that it almost didn't invite him at all because of continuing anger at his "despicable" role in pulling firefighters off the Twin Towers' debris pile in 2001 before all hope of finding their dead comrades' remains was exhausted.
"The disrespect that he exhibited to our 343 fallen FDNY brothers, their families, and our New York leadership in the wake of that tragic day has not been forgiven or forgotten," said the three-page letter, drafted by union leaders in late February and first disclosed on Newsday's Web site Thursday.
The union eventually decided to invite Giuliani because the forum is supposed to be open to all candidates. But, said IAFF spokesman Jeff Zack, "To the extent firefighters know or learn about that story, the letter will absolutely represent the view of firefighters across this country."
In a letter to its members Friday, the International Association of Fire Fighters, excoriated Giuliani for his November 2001 decision to cut back the number of firefighters searching the rubble of Ground Zero for the remains of some 300 fallen comrades.
The 280,000-member union accused him of carelessly expediting the cleanup process with a "scoop-and-dump" operation after the recovery of millions of dollars in gold, silver and other assets from the Bank of Nova Scotia that had been buried. ...
... The union's latest broadside initially was included in a scathing letter dated Feb. 28. Union officials say that letter was drafted as leaders were weighing whether to invite Giuliani to a presidential candidate forum but never was distributed to members because the union ultimately invited Giuliani. Giuliani, however, declined the invitation to next week's forum, citing scheduling conflicts.
"We decided to fall on the side of taking the high road and extend an invitation to him," said Harold Schaitberger, the union's general president. "That letter was never intended to be released."
Nevertheless, the letter showed up on Web sites this week. After it surfaced, the union decided to send a revised letter with the same criticisms to its members on Friday and posted it on the union's Web site.
"Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that firefighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like so much garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills landfill," the letter said, adding: "Hundreds remained entombed in Ground Zero when Giuliani gave up on them."
"What Giuliani showed is a disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen and those brothers still searching for them," it added.
Well, I guess there's always the possibility of getting endorsements from the women in your life, eh Rudy ... perhaps not...
Hey, I'm sure you can count on your kids, right? Not so much...
President Bush tours an ethanol plant with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President Bush hasn't had much fun on his Latin America jaunt so far, between the angry protesters wearing Hitler=Bush T-shirts and burning effigies of him, and the tepid reponse of Latin leaders to his initiatives. But damn, now his very presence is being counted as toxic. According to a news report:
With Bush scheduled to visit Guatemala City next week, Bush antagonism has reached new levels as Mayan priests decide to purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate 'bad spirits' after his visit.
Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan political and religious political leaders said: “That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk on our sacred lands, is considered an offense for the Mayan people and their culture.”
Bush's controversial seven-day tour of South America includes a stopover in Guatemala late Sunday. He is scheduled to visit the consecrated archaeological site 'Iximche' on the high Western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.
Tiney said the “spirit guides of the Maya community” decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of “bad spirits” after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace.
Bush's trip has already sparked protests in other Latin American countries, showing the immense depths of his unpopularity in the continent. There were protests and clashes with police in Brazil hours before his arrival. In Bogota, Columbia, which Bush will visit on Sunday, 200 masked students battled 300 riot police with rocks and homemade explosives.
The tour is seen to be a desperate attempt at challenging rising support for the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is steadily gaining strong influence in the region. Chavez has publicly called Bush “history's greatest killer” and “the devil”.
Silly Maya, everybody knows the Devil is Dick Cheney...
He may have come across as deferential to the President in public, but friends and advisers in the fall of 2002 described Cheney as nothing less than the engine of the Administration. "There's no way in which he is not driving the train on this," said one, referring to Cheney's role in pushing Bush and the Administration inexorably toward an invasion of Iraq. "Analysis, advocacy — it's all done by Cheney or ... his former mentor [Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld]. It's about context. It's reflective not so much of Cheney's direct influence on the President as it is of his influence on — his dominance of — the decision-making process. It's about providing the facts and analysis to the decision maker that the decision maker needs. Bush is making the decision, but the Veep is directing the process toward the decision that he thinks is the right one." In other words, Cheney had so rigged the process that important decisions were foregone conclusions, ones that had been reached by the Vice President well in advance.
I've said this before, but if President Bush wants control of his presidency, he will have to get rid of Dick Cheney.
On October 20, 1973, President Richard Nixon ordered then- attorney general Elliot Richardson to fire the special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by Richardson to investigate the June 17, 1972 Watergate break-in. The Senate Judiciary Committee was in the midst of an investigation into the Watergate scandal. Wikipedia takes it from there:
Cox had earlier issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations which Nixon had made in the Oval Office as evidence. Nixon initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise – asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor's office.
Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night – a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he, too, refused and was fired by Nixon.
Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere – Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. Bork complied with Nixon's order and fired Cox.
Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of Presidential power. In the days that followed, numerous bills of impeachment against the President were introduced in Congress.
As the scandal mounted, and facing almost certain removal from office, Richard Nixon finally resigned his office on August 9. 1974. The firing of the special prosecutor, and the subsequent resignation of the attorney general, Mr. Richardson, and the dismissal of his deputy, William Ruckelshaus, would become known as the "Saturday night massacre." Nixon's defense of his actions would yield the classic Nixonian phrase, "I am not a crook." The Special Prosecutor statute followed soon after, and would live to bedevil nearly every future president.
Fast forward to 2007. The attorney general is now Alberto Gonzales, a longtime crony of President George W. Bush. On December 7, 2006, just one month after Republicans succumbed to a Democratic election sweep that handed the House and Senate to the former party out of power, Attorney General Gonzales fired seven U.S. attorneys -- all Bush appointees; and all either Republicans or registered Independents -- in what has come to be known as the "Pearl Harbor Day massacre." (An eighth had stepped down in October, under circumstances still under inspection.) Who were they, and why were they fired? Here's TIME Magazine's take:
The White House approves all U.S. attorneys, who function as the federal government's chief prosecutors in 93 jurisdictions around the country. As political appointees, they serve "at the pleasure of the President," and can be replaced, at least theoretically, at any time for any reason. But group firings in the middle a presidential term are highly unusual. Though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted to Congress that "I would never, ever make a change in a U.S. attorney position for political reasons," critics were outraged at the December dismissals, among them the firing of an Arkansas U.S. attorney to make way for Timothy Griffin, a prot駩 of White House political guru Karl Rove. The outcry forced Griffin to withdraw. Gonzales' top deputy later claimed the firings were necessary because of "performance-related" issues. But it was later revealed that all but two of the dismissed prosecutors had won outstanding evaluations for competence.
As for the identities, (six of the eight testified this week before teh House judiciary committee) they are:
1) David Iglesias (New Mexico) - according to TIME:
Iglesias ... testified that he felt "leaned on" by Sen. Pete Domenici over a case he was pursuing. Iglesias said the New Mexico Republican and former mentor hung up on him after learning Iglesias would not seek indictments in a criminal investigation of Democrats before the 2006 election. "He said, 'Are these going to be filed before November?'" Iglesias recalled. "I said I didn't think so... to which he replied, 'I'm very sorry to hear that.' And then the line went dead. "I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach," Iglesias testified. "Six weeks later I got the call that I had to move on." The ousted prosecutor also said that Heather Wilson, a Republican House member from New Mexico, had called him about the same issue.
Both Domenici and Wilson confirmed that they had gotten in touch with Iglesias, but denied pressuring him in any way. The Justice Department also acknowledged that Domenici had called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his top deputy four times to complain about Iglesias' behavior, inquiring whether he was "up to the job."
Domenici has since lawyered up.
2) H. E. "Bud" Cummins (Little Rock, Arkansas) -
[Cummins] testified that he had e-mailed fellow ousted prosecutors last month, warning them of a threatening message conveyed by a senior Justice Department official. Cummins' e-mail, which was released publicly, quoted the Justice official as warning that if fired U.S. attorneys continued to talk to the media or volunteered to testify before Congress, the department "would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off" and fight back. The DOJ denied the allegation.
In addition, once Cummins was ousted, his position was filled "on an interim basis" by a guy named Tom Griffin who is, surprise, surprise, a former aide to Karl Rove -- an aide who stated that he would step down if forced to face Congressional confirmation because of the "partisan circus" surrounding him. Cummins ouster to make room for a Rove aide has pushed Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas to take an unusual seat -- in the House witness chair -- to testify that he felt misled about the reasons for Cummins' dismissal and could not support Griffin's nomination.
3) John McKay (Seattle) -
... declared that a top aide to Rep. Doc Hastings, the former Republican chairman of the House Ethics Committee, had called him to ask detailed questions about a politically charged investigation McKay was conducting into the disputed 2004 election of Washington state's Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire. Hastings and his aide have denied the allegation.
4) Carol S. Lam (San Diego) - She is the prosecutor who indicted Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the defense contractor turned bribery suspect. Also:
Lam oversaw the probe that resulted in the guilty plea of then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a Republican. Two others connected to that case, including a former senior CIA official, were indicted two days before Lam left the job on Thursday.
5) and 6) Daniel Bogden (Nevada) and Paul Charlton(Arizona) -
... were also in the midst of investigations targeting current or former Republican members of Congress when they were fired. And in New Mexico, Iglesias's office had been examining alleged wrongdoing involving state Democrats.
7) Kevin Ryan (San Francisco) - let go for reasons unclear.
As for the alleged eighth fire, TPM Muckraker has this to say:
Debra Wong Yang, the former U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Calif. Yang was overseeing the investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). She announced her resignation in October 2006, but to date there hasn't been evidence that her departure was forced.
The White House approved the firings of seven U.S. attorneys late last year after senior Justice Department officials identified the prosecutors they believed were not doing enough to carry out President Bush's policies on immigration, firearms and other issues, White House and Justice Department officials said yesterday.
The list of prosecutors was assembled last fall, based largely on complaints from members of Congress, law enforcement officials and career Justice Department lawyers, administration officials said ...
...The seven prosecutors were first identified by the Justice Department's senior leadership shortly before the November elections, officials said. The final decision was supported by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, and cleared with the White House counsel's office, including deputy counsel William Kelly, they said.
So far, the Judiciary Committee has begun hearings on the matter, which TPMM has been covering extensively.
Meanwhile, the Senate is preparing to push through legislatioon that would require the body to confirm any future U.S. attorneys, ostensibly, giving them a say in when they're let go.
Meanwhile, the new game among the denizens of the right in the wake of the Scooter Libby verdicts: attack the juror. According to the righties, Denis Collins has multiple conflicts of interest, having worked for the Washington Post and lived near Tim Russert. Unfortunately, you can't throw a rock in Washington D.C. without hitting somebody who has ties to government or the press.
Meanwhile, speaking of bias, another juror whinges to the New York Post that Libby should get himself a pardon.
So will Libby get his pardon? Robert Novak -- the man who started the Libby ball rolling by outing Valerie Plame in his column and then spilling his guts to the special prosecutor -- says if he gets it, it won't be until after the 2008 elections.
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.
Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s. The conviction focused renewed attention on the Bush administration’s much-criticized handling of weapons of mass destruction intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.
The verdict culminated an almost four-year investigation into how CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to reporters in 2003. The trial revealed how top members of the Bush administration were eager to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Libby, who was once Cheney’s most trusted adviser and an assistant to President Bush, was expressionless as the jury verdict was announced on the 10th day of deliberations. His wife choked out a sob and sank her head.
Libby was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury for his statements about what he learned from Tim Russert and Matt Cooper of Time Magazine and one of two counts of lying to the FBI (about Russert, but not about Cooper). Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald did throw out some red meat for Bushophiles:
Fitzgerald said the CIA leak investigation was now inactive. “I do not expect to file any additional charges,” he said. “We’re all going back to our day jobs.”
What? No squeezing Scooter to give up the Dark Lord, Dick Cheney? One can still hold out hope, Jeralyn Merritt and her commenters know well.
There's still an outside possibility that the Libby conviction will have a ripple effect on Mr. Cheney, who is being treated for deep vein thrombosis, who remains a rather unhealthy lout, and who could still resign before Dubya completes his term if the oven gets hot enough.
The Bush Administration, trying to assert its leadership on Iraq, the war on terrorists, and a number of domestic initiatives, may decide that they can't afford a drawn-out defense of the Vice President. Cheney, a loyal soldier, may also be able to use his new health issues as a convenient (and legitimate) reason for stepping down. His resignation would give Bush Administration critics one less thing to complain about. And the right replacement nominated by Mr. Bush could earn him points and goodwill.
The most likely opponents of a Cheney resignation, at least in the short run, would be Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, frontrunners for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. They would be fearful that any new veep who gained popularity would be likely to sweep their cracks at the presidency aside, automatically becoming the frontrunner for Republicans next year. If Cheney is to resign, they will lobby for the President to nominate a Republican elder statesman for President, someone like Richard Lugar or John Warner, people unlikely to run for the presidency themselves.
For now, kudos to Pat Fitzgerald and to the jury on a job well done. Libby was proved to be a liar, and the "cloud over the White House" remains. Congress, it's your move.
Update: The reax are coming in to the Libby convictions. Dick Cheney and the prez are quotably "saddened" -- Dubya even watched the verdict on the picture box.
A juror in the case says the panel felt sorry for Libby, feeling that he was the fall guy. The question is, fall guy for whom?
Meanwhile, the National Review swings for the pardon.
The 17-year-old uncle of the two toddlers who were videotaped smoking weed has tried to justify his actions by telling reporters in Texas that, well, that's just the way they do it in the hood. Folks just give their kids weed like white people serve their toddlers beer. Well, alrighty then! Meanwhile, he and the mom, Shattoria Russell's mother is bemoaning the fact that the boys, aged 2 and 5, were taken from the home and put in state custody. And the mom? Well, she says her younger brother shouldn't have to do "hard time" and that her children should be returned to her. She was asleep in the other room while her brother, Demetris McCoy, and his apparent robbery partner, 18-year-old Vanswan Polty passed the blunts around to her kids -- apparently, she had a toothache -- and a 16-year-old friend videotaped. Nice.
And speaking of a toothache, who'd have thought a 12-year-old boy could die of an abcessed tooth in the United States of America in 2007. Who indeed.
And what sets off a crazy astronaut? Love mail, man. love mail.
Hey, if it's Tuesday, it must be time for another stupid comment from Rush Limbaugh!
And the atrocities of the Japanese during World War II are illustrated in stark, chilling fashion, by some of the soldiers themselves.
So why does no-talent wonder Antonella Barba get to stay on Idol while Frenchie, from years past, got the axe for HER near-nudie online pix? It's called Googlability, folks. Barba is commercial with a "capital K"... still, that hasn't stopped one activist from taking decisive action...
And is there someone even dumber than the Coltergeist? Yes ma'am, and her-m...'s name is Shamela. Meanwhile Slate explains why Mr. Coulter is the dude in a skirt who will not be ignored...
Yee-haw! Hillary is dog-gone Kentucky frahd ... in Selma! But is her fake southern accent more hilarious than Madonna's phony British twang? It's a tough call...
Now this is wierd ... a drill sergeant accused of forcing recruits to dress up like Superman and submit to sex acts ... yeesh...
And for "worst persons in the world" ... Israel and Iran, followed closely by the U.S. and North Korea. Well, at least we didn't top the list this time.
Rudy Giuliani dumped his second wife, Donna Hanover, via press conference. Before that, he cheated on her brazenly with Judy Nathan, the woman who would become his third wife (after Donna and Rudy's second cousin, who was also his first wife) -- even getting taxpayer-funded security for Judy when he wasn't whisking her around town to fetes and Broadway shows while Donna sat home and stewed. All of this took place as Rudy's then- 12-year-old son was forced to watch the spectacle from inside Gracie Mansion, where Rudy would bring Judy -- in full view of his little boy.
Is this the hero conservatives and Chris Matthews have been pining away for? Hm?
Campaigning in Southern California, Giuliani faced questions about his family after his son, Andrew, publicly said their relationship had become distant after Giuliani's messy divorce from Andrew's mother, Donna Hanover, and his later marriage to Judith Nathan.
"My wife Judith is a very loving and caring … mother and stepmother. She has done everything she can. The responsibility is mine," the former New York mayor told reporters gathered outside the Los Angeles County Sheriff's headquarters.
"I believe that these problems with blended families, you know, are challenges sometimes they are," he said. "The more privacy I can have for my family, the better we are going to be able to deal with all these difficulties."
The New York Times reported Saturday that Andrew Giuliani and his father have recently tried to reconcile after not speaking "for a decent amount of time." In the Times article, Andrew said, "There's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife."
He told the newspaper he would not participate in his father's campaign, saying he intended to concentrate on becoming a professional golfer. The 21-year-old Duke University student told ABC News' "Good Morning America," "I got my values from my mother. She's a strong influence in my life. She's a strong woman. I have problems with my father, but that doesn't mean he won't make a good president."
On to that NYT Saturday article... in it, we learned that Rudy isn't exactly chummy with his daughter Caroline, either.
Since the Washington Post broke the Walter Reed hospital scandal last week, journalists, politicians and regular Joes have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how on earth the military's premier medical facility -- the jewel in the crown for the care of our uniformed military (before Rummy slated it for closure a couple of years ago...) came to be symbolic of America's failure to take care of our wounded troops (here's CNN's coverage of today's hearings on Capitol Hill). Well, maybe it's time to stop scratching, because an old, familiar tune is starting to sound throughout Washington. It's called, the "f***d by privatization" rag. From the March 3rd edition of the Army Times:
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday.
... Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed privatization of services at Walter Reed could put “patient care services at risk of mission failure.”
But Army officials refused to allow Weightman to appear before the committee after he was relieved of command.
“The Army was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for the decision to prevent General Weightman from testifying,” committee members said in a statement today.
The committee wants to learn more about a letter written in September by Garrison Commander Peter Garibaldi to Weightman.
The memorandum “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel,’” the committee’s letter states. “According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”
The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.
They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.
The letter said the Defense Department “systemically” tried to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for facilities management, patient care and guard duty – a process that began in 2000.
“But the push to privatize support services there accelerated under President Bush’s ‘competitive sourcing’ initiative, which was launched in 2002,” the letter states.
During the year between awarding the contract to IAP and when the company started, “skilled government workers apparently began leaving Walter Reed in droves,” the letter states. “The memorandum also indicates that officials at the highest levels of Walter Reed and the U.S. Army Medical Command were informed about the dangers of privatization, but appeared to do little to prevent them.”
The memo signed by Garibaldi requests more federal employees because the hospital mission had grown “significantly” during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It states that medical command did not concur with their request for more people.
“Without favorable consideration of these requests,” Garibaldi wrote, “[Walter Reed Army Medical Center] Base Operations and patient care services are at risk of mission failure.”
Mission failure, achieved.
So was Walter Reed done in by privatization? The DNC has already smelled blood in the water, particularly as the VA scandal begins to widen. Here's what Camp Dean had to say today:
“It’s an unconscionable disgrace that after serving so bravely in Iraq our troops would be subjected to these abysmal conditions and treated so callously when they needed care. The President's stubborn commitment to a failed strategy in Iraq has sent troops into battle without proper lifesaving equipment or training, and the incompetent mismanagement has put their lives and well being at risk when they come home. The Administration's outsourcing agenda has disgracefully put politics ahead of quality care for our troops and veterans. Democrats are committed to getting to the bottom of this tragedy and will make sure our troops have every resource available from deployment to when they return.”
Oh, no, not that ... I mean the good stuff:
IAP Involved in Katrina Ice Fiasco. Separately, the Pentagon's inspector general is auditing an Army Corps of Engineers contract used to provide ice after Hurricane Katrina and is examining another to install temporary roofs on homes after the disaster. The ice contract with IAP Worldwide Services Inc., based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., came under scrutiny after reports emerged that the Corps of Engineers ordered twice as much ice as it needed in the days after the disaster. Millions of pounds of ice were sent to storage, some as far away as Maine. [Washington Post, 11/17/2005]
IAP Run by Former Halliburton Executives. IAP, which is based in Cape Canaveral, Fla., has more than $1 billion a year in revenue and more than 5,000 employees around the world, according to the company's Web site. It is owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a private asset management firm. The firm has grown exponentially in recent years in part because of contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. It recently recruited high-ranking Halliburton Co. official Al Neffgen to be its chief executive. IAP's President is Dave Swindle. Prior to IAP, Swindle was Vice President, Business Acquisition and National Security Programs and an Officer for Kellogg Brown and Root. In this capacity, he was responsible for the Government and Infrastructure Division's Business Development Operations for KBR Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe-Africa, and the Middle East. [IAP Website, Accessed 3/5/2007; Washington Post, 10/20/2005]
IAS Chief Executive Defended Iraq Gas Price Gouging. According to Rep. Waxman's Letter, IAS "is led by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official who testified before our Committee in July 2004 in defense of Halliburton's exorbitant charges for fuel delivery and troop support in Iraq." [Waxman Letter to Maj. Gen. George Weightman, 3/2/2007
yeah, that, straight from the DNC daily press missive today. And wouldn't you know there'd be a Florida connection? IAS' web-site boasts of its contracts with federal and state government agencies, principally the Pentagon.
Want more? Here's video from late last week from CNN, courtesy of C&L.
Some conservative blogs expressed no surprise at the report today about problems at both military- and Veterans Administration-run facilities. After all, they’re run by the government, they argue. David Bernstein writes in The Volokh Conspiracy, “If private companies had mismanaged outpatient care for veterans the way the V.A. system has, there would be strong calls from all the usual quarters for a government takeover, and proclamations of how we can’t trust ‘greedy’ for-profit companies to take care of veterans.”
er... Mr. Volokh... Walter Reed's outpatient care was privatized, and people ARE saying that its mismanagement proves you can't trust greedy, for-profit companies to take care of veterans ... moving on!
But the liberal blogosphere, fueled by research in the blog Raw Story and an opinion column today by The Times’s Paul Krugman, flipped the argument on its head, at least when it comes to Walter Reed (which, again, is not run by the V.A.). [Emphasis added] Apparently, a company called IAP Worldwide Services had a large contract to help run the Washington military hospital.
“Chalk the declining conditions at the military hospitals up as another victory in the GOP passion for contracting out government services,” writes Matthew Yglesias in his blog.
Sorry righties, on this one, you lose.
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin manages to miss the story, too. La Malkin asks:
Will the Bush-bashers join with free-market critics to effect real change and help the troops who need and deserve better care?
Again, my dear, Walter Reed was a textbook example of the kind of free market privatization you prefer in action ... and earth to Malkin: it sucks.
Note: tomorrow, we're going to have Sgt. 1st Class Drew Brown of IAVA on the radio show to talk about the woes of VA healthcare, which, by the way, apparently sucks too. And more on how contracting allows the government -- and both political parties -- to reward former Pentagon alumni here. Read all the way to the bottom for a special appearance by one Robert Gates.
Meanwhile, the Army is denying reports in the Army Times that it is gagging soldiers and preventing the media from entering its facilities. Army spokesman Paul Boyce had a creative answer to a query by ThinkP:
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Army spokesman Paul Boyce insisted that the Army Times report is inaccurate, and that injured vets are “free to exercise their First Amendment right” and speak with the media. But upon further questioning, Boyce acknowledged that if patients at Walter Reed wanted to speak to reporters inside the hospital, they must first receive approval from the hospital’s press relations office.
What if reporters want to speak to a reporter without getting approval from a PR office? “They can go to Starbucks,” Boyce said. Asked whether this was a reasonable solution for patients recuperating from physical and mental trauma, Boyce said yes. “It’s just a short trip, and many of them want to get out [of the hospital] anyway.”
Well, the cinnamon lattes ARE outstanding...
Boyce repeatedly justified the restrictions on patients’ activities by citing the fact that Walter Reed hospital is a “government building.” ThinkProgress contacted several legal analysts and none of them could explain why this would justify media restrictions.
Well you know ... roaches and mold don't make good P.R.
You can quote me on this: whether or not she wins "American Idol," Melinda Doolittle will be a star -- no, not a star ... a major icon in the field of R&B music. You will be lining up for tickets to see her perform 20, 30 years from now. She will be on the level of a Patti Labelle, Aretha Franklin, you name it. She is THAT good. Aside from Lakisha Jones, there is no Idol contestant that can test her. Let's see if America has the good sense to make her the winner.
Quick take headlines: Thursdays in the park with Cheney
There will be no indictment against the white woman who pointed out 14-year-old Emmit Till to her husband and brother in law, who later murdered the boy and threw his body into the Tallahatchee River. Even 50 years later, the case is chilling. And while the jury found "not enough evidence" of Carolyn Bryant Donham's guilt, she knows that guilt full well. The good news is that God will deal with her.
Take the person who briefed reporters aboard Vice President Cheney's plane after his secret stay in Afghanistan. He didn't want his name used when he talked to reporters, but he kept using the words "I" and "me" as he referred to Cheney and to the reason for the vice president's visit.
For example, the source said, "The reason the president wanted me to come, obviously, is because of the continuing threat that exists in this part of the world."
And when it comes to the reports that Cheney went in to "beat up on" the Pakistani president and to get him to crack down on al-Qaida and Taliban fighters on the border with Afghanistan, the official said, "That's not the way I work."
Howard Kurtz of the WaPo asks in his column whether reporters should have refused to go along with Cheney's "anonymous source" fakery, and he lambastes blog commenters who seemed to wish that suicide bomber had succeeded. Earth to Kurtz! People were joking, and let's recall that it was right wingers who started us down this path to hating the president of the opposite party...
Meanwhile, the poster child for the Sovietization of America, Jose Padilla, has been ruled competent to stand trial. Padilla's case is an embarassment to the now quaint notion that the United States is a nation of laws, where the president is prevented from wielding dictatorial power over helpless citizens.
Over to Iraq, where U.S. troops are moving out of fortified bases, and into the violent, chaotic neighborhoods they usually patrol. Sounds like a recipe for more U.S. casualties. And the U.S. continues to insist that no children were killed in a soccer field bomb blast in Ramadi this week. But a local sheikh says differently.
Meanwhile, Africa has become a key transit point for illegal drugs, particularly cocaine and heroine trafficking. Just what they need.
The WashPost leads with this sobering story about who knew what, and when, about the mistreatment of injured U.S. troops at Walter Reed medical center:
Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.
A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.
Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that "there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need."
"I met guys who weren't going to appointments because the hospital didn't even know they were there," Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.
And there's this:
Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 "weren't serious and there weren't a lot of them." He also said they were not "emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families."
But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers' lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders' "sensing sessions" in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general's reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.
Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."
Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years until last August, said that he was aware of outpatient problems and that there were "ongoing reviews and discussions" about how to fix them when he left. He said he shared many of those issues with Kiley, his immediate commander. Last summer when he turned over command to Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, Farmer said, "there were a variety of things we identified as opportunities for continued improvement."
In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.
Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."