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Monday, July 25, 2005

Running On Empty

Will Marshall of the DLC has written a critique of us Michael Moore Democrats who are ruining the party with our anti-Americanism and lack of real patriotism. Don't even bother to read it if this kind of thing pisses you off because this one's a doozy.

There are many problems with his thesis, but this is perhaps the central thing he gets wrong:

The left's unease with patriotism is rooted in a 1960s narrative of American arrogance and abuse of power. For many liberals who came of age during the protests against the Vietnam War, writes leftish commentator Todd Gitlin, "the most powerful public emotion of our lives was rejecting patriotism." As he and other honest liberals have acknowledged, the excesses of protest politics still haunt liberalism today and complicate Democratic efforts to develop a coherent stance toward American power and the use of force.

When Americans ponder such questions today, their frame of reference is not the Vietnam War, but Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks evoked the most powerful upsurge in patriotic feeling since Pearl Harbor, and thrust national security back into the center of American politics. Democrats have yet to come to grips with this new reality. More than anything else, they need to show the country a party unified behind a new patriotism -- a progressive patriotism determined to succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror, to close a yawning cultural gap between Democrats and the military, and to summon a new spirit of national service and shared sacrifice to counter the politics of polarization.

Well, I don't know about you, but I happen to be an American who went through 9/11 just like the conservatives and the hawkish centrists did. I don't know who he's talking about. We all have the same frame of reference as everyone else who has lived in our time. We live in the new reality too and we've come to grips with it --- we simply don't agree with their prescription for dealing with terrorism and it has nothing to do with Vietnam or patriotism.

How petty and lacking in imagination this discussion is. Apparently, all honest liberals are ex-campus radicals who went to school with Todd Gitlin and who feel "uncomfortable" with this new patriotism because their formative experience was with protest politics. Whatever. Perhaps Marshall ought to check with his boss Al From, who Rick Perlstein quotes in "The Stockticker and the Superjumbo" as saying that that his formative experience was McGovern's loss in 1972. I think that might just be a bit more to the point.

I'm a baby boomer but I'm 48 and my formative political experience was probably Watergate, in which patriotism was shown to be a willingness to put the country above politics when the chips were down. Republicans Howard Baker and Barry Goldwater ranked as major patriots for me. Indeed, Watergate was one of those moments when I think the entire country was impressed (and surprised) by the incredible resiliency of its system of government and the integrity of men and women who rose to the occasion. To me patriotism isn't about fighting wars, it's about love of country.

People born in 1970 are now in their mid-30's. Are they scarred by their parents' youthful beliefs in "anti-patriotism?" Their formative political years were during the Reagan era, hardly a period of anti-americanism. Flag waving was a fetish.

My friends' mother is 80 years old. She's a child of the depression and she's a Democrat who was adamantly against the Iraq war. It had nothing to do with Vietnam; it was because she didn't believe in "wars of aggression." That was the reflexive foreign policy belief of cold war liberals who learned their lessons from the two world wars. I have another friend who is 22 and was against the war in Iraq because he believes it distracts from the War on terrorism. I was against it because I gravely mistrust the neocon vision of American global hegemony and I wanted them to do the minumum possible until we could get sane people in office to assess the threat properly. We are not all singing kumbaya from the 60's campus radical manual.

He talks about liberals (or maybe just the unbearable bi-coastal elites he describes in such loving detail) as if we are from Mars. I have no doubt that there are quite a few who really disdain the military and would be shocked to see one of their friends' children from the elite private school choosing to join the marines instead of going to an Ivy League College as expected. But really, can we call this a particularly Democratic or liberal response? Considering the remarkable problem the military is having with recruitment, I'd have to say it's a pretty common American response, rather than any comment on Democrats. It's not as if Republicans are all rushing out to join up either. If it's a lack of patriotism that's causing that reaction I think you would have to say that most Americans are unpatriotic.

He worries that the military itself is too Republican and laments that the Democrats are not better represented. His evidence is two polls which show that the majority of officers are Republicans. Can everyone see what might be wrong with that picture?

The salient point in all this is that there are no national Democrats who are anti- military and very, very few rank and file Democrats who are anti-military. Even the hated Michael Moore shows a tremendous affinity for the grunts in his movies in which he focuses on the sacrifices of working and middle class families who are being treated terribly by the government in thanks for their sacrifice. This thing that Marshall and his DLCers see is not anti-military; it's anti-Washington and that's not the same thing at all.

He builds a straw man out of poll results that purport to show that most Democrats don't want to fight the war on terrorism with the same sort of dizzying fervor he thinks is required, and calls them unpatriotic for their views. He refers to a list of foreign policy issues in which more Democrats consider outsourcing to be a bigger worry than dismantling al Qaeda.

Why is that a measure of patriotism? It's actually surprisingly rational. The statistics would certainly show that any individual stands a greater chance of being personally affected by outsourcing than an al Qaeda terrorist attack. It's actually kind of dumb to put al Qaeda at the top of your list of national security worries when really, it isn't the biggest one we face --- loose nukes are, and nobody gives a fuck about that.

Furthermore, it's entirely possible that at least some Democrats realize that al Qaeda isn't something you can just "dismantle" with a ripping good show of military might because it's morphed into a constantly changing, moving concept, rather than a single entity you can "end." And while terrorism is scary and we need to do all we can to protect people from it, it is not any more threatening than Leonid Bresznev potentially getting into a pissing match or losing control of his military or any other thing that could have resulted in an accidental nuclear exchange during the cold war. We lived for many years under an unimaginable threat (still do, actually) and we managed to keep our heads for the most part and not turn ourselves inside out over it. This threat of terrorism is real and it's important, but we simply have to stop overreacting like we did with Iraq or we really are going to turn it into the existential threat these people seem to desire so fervently.

Finally, Marshall suggests that we not make such a big deal out torture.

"...the revelation that some U.S. troops aren't saints should not come as too great a shock, at least to grownups. By dwelling obsessively on U.S. misdeeds while ignoring the far more heinous crimes of what is quite possibly the most barbaric insurgency in modern times, anti-war critics betray an anti-American bias that undercuts their credibility."

(Yeah, it's the liberals who are ignoring the barbaric insurgency in Iraq. And here the last I heard they were in their last throes.)

Let's just say I'm a big believer in supporting the troops --- troops like Spc. Joseph Darby, for instance, who had the courage and patriotism to stand up and say something when his fellow troopers were committing reprehensible acts --- or the FBI agents who complained on the record about what they saw at Guantanamo. I will never excuse the United States using torture or abuse or holding prisoners indefinitely without due process. Never. No matter what the "barbaric insurgency" does in Iraq. And I am more than willing to throw down the gauntlet on this and say that anyone who soft peddles those things is the worst kind of anti-American there is. We're not going to find common ground on this subject. If that kicks me out of the big tent so be it. I'm not signing on to that shit, ever.

I recognise that saying all this means that I couldn't get elected. And for that reason there are almost no elected Democrats who do say what I'm saying. They all wave flags and shriek like old ladies every time something happens --- and they back ridiculous wars, because if they don't the chattering classes will go nuts and label them unpatriotic. But saying it doesn't make it true. That's inside the beltway Republican kabuki which nobody who calls himself a Democrat should ever allow himself to perform. There are legitimate reasons why we might disagree on this stuff and still take national security seriously.

Being lectured all the time by effete DC Democrats on "patriotism" because I don't back their reflexively hawkish foreign policy is not only insulting it's dumb. It plays into stereotypes that only serve the Republicans by turning this into a dick measuring contest when we should be turning the conversation into who can get the job done. I would submit that if anyone's been traumatized by the Vietnam experience it's the tired Democratic national security hawks who are always rushing to support military action, no matter how insanely counterproductive, because some Republican somewhere might call him a pussy. They've been around since the 60's too. Hell, they've been around forever.

"Never Tell Anybody Outside The Family What You're Thinking Again"

This Alberto Gonzales 12 hour gap is quite interesting, but I'm sure that we all also remember that Gonzales also later reviewed every document that was produced and vetted it before it was released to the Justice Department --- the Justice Department run by John Ashcroft who didn't bother to recuse himself until three months later. Let's just say there were many opportunities for documents to have gone astray in this process.

As I was perusing old articles about the document production, I also realized that none of the top administration aides bothered to lawyer up in the early days when they were talking to the FBI. One could assume that they were confident they'd done nothing wrong, but it strikes me that these guys may have thought it was in the bag. They had old "Let The Ego Soar" Ashcroft at justice and Alberto the torturer handling any incriminating documents.

And while one might have expected the president to say that he knew the truth would be revealed because he expected his staff to be forthcoming with the authorities, instead we got this:

"I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is, partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers," he said. "You tell me: How many sources have you had that's leaked information that you've exposed or had been exposed? Probably none. I mean, this town is a town full of people who like to leak information."

We always knew that somebody leaked this to Bob Novak. And unless Novak was lying, it was two senior white house officials. But the president of the United States said quite candidly that he didn't think we would ever know the truth unless reporters burned their sources. He certainly didn't seem to expect the "senior white house official" sources to come forward, did he?

With the benefit of hindsight, that sounds like the president of the United States was reminding the press corpse to keep its collective trap shut, doesn't it? (Are you listening Judy?)

Tripping Them Up

Josh Marshall points out today that Senator Pat Roberts (R- Partisan Tool) has decided that the congress must waste no time holding hearings on whether the CIA is properly protecting its covert agents. After all, if Karl Rove and Scooter Libby can find out who they are, how safe can they be?

The only other possibility -- one which I've referred to jokingly in the past -- is to argue that she wasn't covert enough. That is to say, maybe she was covert to the CIA. But she really wasn't covert up to the standards of say, Bill Safire or Tucker Carlson or Bill O'Reilly.

And this, understand, is the premise of the new Roberts' hearings. Was she really covert enough? And does the CIA really know how to define 'covert'. Asked about a bankrobber caught red-handed outside the bank, Sen. Roberts response would be to say, "But how much real claim did the bank have to that money? Did they really earn it? And what did they do to protect it?"

Roberts is one of the more reprehensible hacks in the GOP caucus and that's saying something. That he's chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is frankly scary. His little addendum to the SSCI report on Iraq pre-war intelligence is one of the most amazing examples of partisan smearing we've ever seen coming from a committee that is usually held up as the model of bi-partisan seriousness.

But his appearance on CNN yesterday had him dancing like he was challenging Ricky Martin to a samba contest. And, unfortunately, my senator, Dianne Feinstein made little effort to trip him up.

BLITZER: How big of a deal in your assessment is the fact that the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak of that covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame? Is this a big deal in your opinion, releasing the identity of an undercover CIA officer?

ROBERTS: Why yes, it is a big deal. And in the Intelligence Committee, we're going to go into quite a series of hearings in regards to cover. You cannot be in the business of outing somebody, if that's the proper word.

BLITZER: I ask the question because some are suggesting she really wasn't undercover any more. She had been working at the CIA in nonproliferation. She really wasn't a technical...

ROBERTS: There's a five-year period, OK? And whether or not that five-year period had been reached or not is still questionable. And I must say from a common sense standpoint, driving back and forth to work to the CIA headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert.

But generically speaking, it is a very serious matter although it obviously dovetails now into the issue of the day in regards to Karl Rove and the First Amendment, and all of that.

BLITZER: The fact that the CIA asked for this criminal investigation, this probe into who leaked her name to Bob Novak, what does that say to you, Senator Feinstein?

FEINSTEIN: Well, it says to me that the CIA values this as extraordinarily important. If they can't protect their agents, they can't survive as an agency. And I've been distressed to even see in the newspapers, I believe this morning, about what some of the undercover placements were, listing them rather generically.

BLITZER: Have you been briefed, has the committee been briefed by the CIA about the potential damage that has been done, if any lives have been endangered, her contacts, undercover spies, if you will, as a result of her name being made public?

FEINSTEIN: I have not been briefed.

BLITZER: Have you been briefed on that?

ROBERTS: We are going to have those hearings, or those briefings, pardon.

BLITZER: But have you received a preliminary assessment of damage? Because usually when someone has been exposed like this, they do a damage assessment.

ROBERTS: I'll tell you what we have done in the 511 page document that we've released from the WMD report: We went into considerable detail in regards to the veracity of Admiral Wilson's testimony.

BLITZER: Ambassador Wilson.

ROBERTS: Pardon me. Admiral. All of a sudden, I've got him in a different, you know category. But the ambassador. And I'm just going to be very blunt about it. I don't think the White House had any need to discredit him. He discredited himself. He was all over the lot.

Now, I'm not going to say anymore about that because that's one issue.

I want to know basically who assigned him and what role she played. And then obviously we want to find out exactly what happened in regards to her covert status.

Now, we're going to have to wait on that in regards to the special prosecutor. But overall, Dianne is exactly right. If we're in the business now where somehow, through some means, a covert officer working in the CIA, if that becomes public, that just can not happen. And so that is why the committee is going to be so aggressive in really taking a look at it.

BLITZER: Should the president's top political adviser, the deputy White House chief of staff, Karl Rove, who has now apparently, according to sources close to him, acknowledged speaking to reporters about Valerie Plame Wilson, should his security clearances, based on what you know, Senator Feinstein, be revoked?

FEINSTEIN: Well, based on what I know, I think yes for the time being. I think you have to look at this: Who had opportunity, who had means, and who had motive? And if you look at those three things, you see the White House somewhere, some way figures into it.

Now, the details and the precise statements are being analyzed by the prosecutor, very well-regarded Mr. Fitzgerald. It's going to be very interesting to see what he comes up with. But in the meantime, I mean, you have somebody that quite possibly either corroborated or volunteered information that shouldn't be in the public sector.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the new Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts.

ROBERTS: I had another comment by the way, but...

FEINSTEIN: I figured you would.

BLITZER: Well, go ahead. Briefly comment and then we'll move on to John Roberts.

ROBERTS: Well, I think you're presumed innocent until proven guilty. And I think we ought to wait on the special prosecutor. If you go down a laundry list of leaks in this town as to who was involved and who wasn't, you'd probably have 10 or 12 people, and some of them are in the CIA. And there's been leaks from the CIA.

You know, in this town, when there is a leak, nobody gets wet until there is a leak. And right now we're about up to here on this particular issue. So let's wait on the facts.

Roberts refused to say if he'd been given a damage assessment, which is kind of interesting. But, he's just a blunt tool, not a very sharp one, so it could be that he was just rushing to the next talking point. But he was all over the map with that little exchange, ending with the "everybody leaks classified information so what's the big deal" excuse.

Dianne said that Rove should probably have his security clearance revoked for the time being and that the white house had the means and the motive to leak Plame's name. Well, doesn't that just blow the lid off this thing? As if we don't know that the white house was involved ferchirstsake. She wasn't well prepared, as usual.

She and all the Democrats should be trying to tie these guys up in knots with the obvious contradiction that the tough-guy national security Republicans have been caught red-handed being loosy-goosy with classified information for political reasons. They should always bring up the president. This isn't too difficult to do.

Imagine if Feinstein had said in reponse to Wolf's question about revoking Rove's security clearance, "Well, Wolf, it is well established already that Karl Rove was involved in leaking Valerie Plame's identity to the press. His lawyer admitted just this week that he was one of Robert Novak's two sources. I have every faith that the special prosecutor will find out if there is evidence that he or anyone else broke the law by doing this. But I think that even Pat here would have to admit that regardless of whether it was legal or illegal, Karl Rove and others in the White House have shown an appalling lack of judgment. As the man in charge, the president has a responsibility for the actions of his staff. He should have called Karl Rove into his office and demanded an explanation and withdrawn his security clearance the minute it was found that he was involved in this. Breaking the law isn't the issue here, Wolf. This is about national security. We're at war. The president shouldn't be playing politics with this stuff."

It would be helpful to show Bush as being either impotent to deal with Karl Rove, or covering for him, because it is imperative for Democrats over the long haul to begin to show the Republicans as being unable to deal responsibly with national security. If you look at what Roberts was saying it was basically, "Joe Wilson is a liar and his wife worked in Washington and anyway everybody leaks." Hardly the stuff of a macho "never complain, never explain" warrior, is it? This is an opportunity for Democrats to change the long standing narrative that the Republicans have built up about their national security prowess. If the Commander in Chief can't even call his own staff on the carpet when they screw up, then how tough is he?

This is the second time in 25 years that we've had a two term GOP president who has to be portrayed as dumb, distanced and out-of-it in order to cover for his staff running amuck. They're always out of the loop, aren't they? Never quite in charge when the bad shit happens, only the good. It's time for the Democrats to start tying this into a bigger narrative about national security. These tough guys, these people who are going to keep us safe, seem to continually elect presidents who are cluelss about what's going on around them. Or, at least, that's what they are always forced to use as an excuse when they fuck up.

It takes time to build new storylines. Even if this one isn't very good, we really need get started on something. And that means that Democrats have to agree among themselves on a basic framework of criticism for Republican national security policy and practice. They need to internalize it so that when a guy like Roberts starts blathering, they can respond with vigor and authority without having to think too much about it. Vague, off-point pablum like Feinstein's is exacerbating our problem. We look weak because we won't confront a blowhard like Roberts. And we are weak because we refuse to take every opportunity to show the American people that the Republicans are screw-ups on national security. That last should actually be pretty easy, because it patently true.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

Second Track

Meanwhile, a parallel investigation is under way into who forged the Niger documents. They are known to have been passed to an Italian journalist by a former Italian defence intelligence officer, Rocco Martino, in October 2002, but their origins have remained a mystery. Mr Martino has insisted to the Italian press that he was "a tool used by someone for games much bigger than me", but has not specified who that might be.

A source familiar with the inquiry said investigators were examining whether former US intelligence agents may have been involved in possible collaboration with Iraqi exiles determined to prove that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear programme.

Well now. That would be something, wouldn't it?

Josh Marshall, who was once hot on the trail of this forgery story, wrote this a couple of weeks ago, the night O'Donnell revealed Rove's name on the McLaughlin report:

One other note along these lines.

I've gotten hints or suggestions from several sources over the last month that new information is bubbling to the surface, not about who leaked Valerie Plame's identity, but who was behind the underlying caper that started the whole drama afoot in the first place: those phoney Niger uranium documents.

As longtime readers of this site know, last year colleagues of mine and I were able to trace the documents back to a former Italian intelligence agent named Rocco Martino. Martino was the 'Italian businessman' who tried to sell the documents to Elizabetta Burba, the journalist who eventually brought them to the US Embassy in Rome.

We were able determine that the documents had been put into Martino's hands by a then-serving member of SISMI -- Italian military intelligence. And this SISMI colonel had done so using a women working in the Niger embassy in Rome, an Italian national, as a cut-out.

This was, as you might imagine, more than enough to make us want to know a lot more. But we were never able to develop any conclusive proof about who or what was behind the SISMI colonel or what the backstory was within SISMI.

Suspicions, we had plenty. But in terms of hard facts, we hit a wall just inside SISMI.

Just who forged the documents? And, more significantly, who put the whole process in motion? And why had SISMI or elements within it involved themselves?

This story and Plame ar running on different tracks, but they come to the same station eventually. And, once again, the spectre of Judith Miller hangs over it --- she's the Zelig of the iraq operation.

I don't have enough information to speculate about this, but I think it is significant that information is leaking out about this case as well. It's hard to know whether it's because people are fed up or because the white house is weak or some combination of both. But the veil is lifting on this administration's shenanigans, for sure. It's going to be a very interesting time.

Here's the immediate political result for Dear Leader:

Across the board, those stellar character ratings which supposedly meant Bush could weather any political storm have become mediocre to poor. And he's lost the most ground among independents, only 38 percent of whom now believe Bush is trustworthy or cares about people like them. Even more amazing, less than half (48 percent) of indepedents now think Bush is a strong leader, which is a massive 24 point decline since Pew's previous measurement.

And how about this: in February of this year, the two leading one word description of Bush were "honest" and "good", cited by 38 percent and 20 percent of the public, respectively. Today, honest has declined to 31 percent, closely followed by "incompetent" (26 percent, up from 14 percent) and "arrogant" (24 percent, up from 15 percent).

Reality bites.

Update: Just to be clear, what's new about the Guardian story isn't that the FBI suspects Iraqi exiles of being involved, it the part about retired US intelligence being involved that I was unaware of.

Seymour Hersh has speculated that it was a sort of reverse sting by appalled ex-CIA operatives, but this would indicate a less byzantine explanation. People with common interests helping each other out.


Friday, July 22, 2005


Via Atrios I see that Steve Clemens has it on good authority that John Bolton is known to be a regular source for Judith Miller, although we don't know if he was her source on this.

We know that whoever spoke with Miller waived his or her confidentiality. Does anyone know who all signed waivers?

Too Tired To Be Outraged

This is just sad:

This morning the Wall Street Journal reported that Senate Democrats were planning “to grill Bush confidant Karen Hughes” about her involvement in the ever widening leak-case. But, Senate Democrats must have gotten lost on the way to the hearing. Not one showed up. Instead, according to the Associated Press:

“A scaled-back Senate Foreign Relations Committee showered praise Friday on Karen Hughes and put the former political adviser to President Bush on a fast track to confirmation as the State Department’s top public relations official.”

The absence of the Democrats is even more glaring considering just today the New York Times reported that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called Karen Hughes before the grand jury to testify as to her involvement in the leak-case. Of course, this begs the obvious question: Karen Hughes, did you have a role in leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent?

Instead of any substantive questions, the Democrats simply didn’t show up. But we did get this statement from ranking minority member Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE):

“Mr. Chairman, I regret that previous commitments prevent me from attending the confirmation hearing this morning.

I am particularly interested in and supportive of the nomination of Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. What this job requires, among other things, is continuity. The last two undersecretaries have stayed six and 18 months, respectively.

I met with the nominee yesterday and understand that, barring unforeseen circumstances, she is willing to stay through the president’s term.

I believe that she is highly qualified because of her professional background, and, importantly, enjoys the full confidence of the president and the secretary of state...

Well, that's awfully friendly of him. No need to provide the evening news or the Sunday news shows with footage of Karen Hughes being grilled about getting called before the grand jury in the Plame case. That would be what Republicans would do in our situation and that wouldn't be nice at all.

Think Progress has a list of questions the Democrats might have asked if they could have gotten it up to attend the meeting. I assume they were too busy with their preparations to lionize John Roberts and didn't have the time.

We just don't have the killer instinct. They do. So they win and we lose. I guess we have to wait for total economic armageddon or nuclear meltdown in which case we will win by default.

Executive Infallibility

It would appear that the president is sticking to his belief that he has the sole right to order torture, hold people indefinitely and secretly and make up the rules as he goes along. To hell with the congress. It doesn't matter what Senator John McCain, former torture victim and POW says; it doesn't matter what Senator Lindsey Graham, former JAG lawyer says; and it doesn't matter what Senator John Warner,former Secretary of the Navy says. (I won't even mention that "elections have consequences" and Democrats are supposed to STFU for the duration.)No one has any right to tell the president nothin' bout prisoners in a time 'o unending, ever-present war. And they have no right to ask any questions about it either.

The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.

The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.

In a statement, the White House said such amendments would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."

"If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed, the statement said.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said after meeting at the Capitol with Vice President Dick Cheney that he still intended to offer amendments next week "on the standard of treatment of prisoners."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was working on legislation defining the legal status of enemy combatants being held in Guantanamo, also said he would offer an amendment.

They were working with Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia on amendments intended to prevent further abuses in the wake of the scandal over sexual abuse and mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison and harsh, degrading interrogations at Guantanamo.

And just look at what these unAmerican, commie bastards are trying to do:

Possible measures included barring the holding of "ghost" detainees whose names are not disclosed, codifying a ban against cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, and using the Army manual as a basis for all interrogations.

Really, what business is this of the congress anyway? Who do they think they are --- elected representatives of the people?

It would be very nice to see the president veto the defense bill over this but, needless to say, it will not happen. But someday, if the country survives this wretched radical era, people will look back on this with particular disgust, not just because the president of the United States openly seeks to preserve his right to torture (which is stomach churning) but also the total abdication of responsibility by the Republican congress.

And people say the Democrats are the chickenshits. Another big lie. Nobody, but nobody, is more gutless than a congressional Republican cowering at the feet of the flatulent Rove and his little dog George.

Leaking Briefs

Talk Left has an excellent primer on how to figure out who's doing the leaking.

Overlooking The Obvious

In this week's editorial The New Republic discusses the rightwing push back on Rovegate. They complain that the emphasis on Rove obscures the more important story of Iraq lies. I submit that without Rovegate, there would be no coverage of the Iraq lies at all, so we should not knock the hook that gives us the opportunity to talk about the bigger picture.

The editorial brings up something else, however, that I think is quite important. It mentions the single most important weapon in our arsenal when arguing about the bigger picture surrounding Wilson's trip:

As that investigation has spilled onto the front pages in the last few weeks, supporters of the administration have picked up where they left off two years ago, saying that Wilson was unqualified for the Niger investigation and declaring that his credibility is in tatters. It's true that Wilson has made himself an easy target for such accusations by posing with his wife for Vanity Fair magazine and taking a very public role advising the Kerry campaign last fall. But the most serious charge that Wilson's critics level against him is the allegation that he was wrong in his assessment of Iraq's dealing with Niger. Supporters of Rove have revived this accusation in an effort to claim that, when Rove spoke to reporters about Plame, he wasn't trying to disparage Wilson so much as warn them off a "bad story." But what, exactly, was "bad" about Wilson's story?

Both the national security adviser and the CIA director at the time (Condoleezza Rice and George Tenet, respectively) issued public apologies for the Niger claim, admitting it was unsubstantiated. And the most authoritative report on the matter comes from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which spent a year combing the Iraqi countryside for alleged weapons of mass destruction. Its conclusion: "ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material."

Because of all the deliberate obfuscation coming from the Rove machine, this central piece of evidence has not been discussed nearly enough. Ivo Daalder on TPM cafe brought this up some time ago, but it's worth repeating: Wilson's conclusions have been born out by the Iraq Survey Group, who spent a year inside Iraq, looking at all the records and speaking to the parties. There is no point in speculating about meetings in 1999 or the Butler Report or any other reports that testify to evidence that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. The fact is that it didn't. Period. End of story. The non-believers were right, the true-believers were wrong, whatever their motives.

It's two years later, we have a definitive report from the ISG, and people are still saying that Wilson was a flake, he was sent by his wife, he was trying to set up the Republicans, whatever. In a normal world, that fact that Wilson's conclusions (along with others) were correct would have some salience in this argument --- particularly since the Reublicans are basing theirs on the the mistaken premise that Wilson's credibility is in question when quite clearly, he was right.

Rick Perlstein relayed in the comments of one of my other posts a comment from a right wing correspondent of his who said of Plame: "she was part of a CIA attempt to discredit the elected government. She should be swinging from a lamp post." And yet, there was no uranium deal. There were no WMD. This comment therefore means that naysayers (in and out of the CIA, presumably) were trying to discredit the elected government with the truth.

It's enormously frustrating to argue with people who have so little intellectual integrity, but that's the way it is. They continue to dig themselves in on this point --- even as the huge elephant holding a sign that says "there were no WMD in Iraq" is sitting in the middle of the room, mocking them.

But over time, through all the bickering and small bore detail and gossip, that elephant comes more and more into focus for average Americans. And it lays the groundwork for a scathing Democratic critique of Republican foreign policy for the first time in many years if we can just find the nerve to claim it. The Republicans are going to have Iraq hung around their necks like a burning rubber tire for a long time to come, as they should.

When you strip all the fulminating away, the Republican argument for the massive failure in both concept and execution of Iraq is that they didn't do it on purpose --- they just screwed up. That's the same excuse Karl Rove is using, as well, and it's no surprise. At this point, it's realistically their best case scenario. Would you want to run on that record?

Depends On What The Definition Of "Secret" Is

I confess that I'm feeling more than a bit of schadenfreude reading the rightwing bloggers' responses to the Plame scandal over on the Daou Report. It so sucks being on the receiving end of the drip, drip, drip, doesn't it?

Here's one that's fairly typically uninformed from Captain's Quarters (all links available at the Daou Report), in which he, taking his cues from the RNC, piles on the ridiculous assertion that Plame was not covert, even if her status was labeled "secret."

"Today's Washington Post article on the State Department memo detailing Valerie Plame's involvement in sending her husband to Niger lacks a great deal of context. Bloggers appear to assume that the (S) described in the article denotes the status of Plame's identity, but a more careful read of a poorly-written article shows that it doesn't mean that at all. Most people don't understand that "secret" is the second-lowest classification grade possible. I would hope that NOC lists have much higher classification than that, and surely they do.

It all depends on how you look at it. It's also the second-highest classification. There are only three levels of classified material: confidential, secret, top-secret. According to the very Washington Post article he quotes, covert agents are all classifed as "secret."

Apparently, these people think that the government has a whole string of classified levels, many of which you don't have to take seriously. Like "secret" which doesn't really mean secret, it means kinda-sorta secret but not if you need to smear a political opponent. They assume that there also must be a bunch super-duper-double-cross-your-heart secret levels that you really, really, really shouldn't tell the media about. But "secret?" Not a problem. Go ahead and spill your guts to Bob Novak.

Google is your friend:

Classified vs. Unclassified Information

In the U.S. information is called "classified" because it has been assigned one of the three levels, confidential, secret or top secret. Information which is not so labled is called unclassified information. The term declassified is used for information which has had its classification removed, and downgraded refers to information that has been assigned a lower classification level, but is still classified. Many documents are automatically downgraded and then declassified after some number of years. The U.S. government uses the term sensitive but unclassified (SBU) to refer to information that is not confidential, secret or top secret, but whose dissemination is still restricted. Reasons for such restrictions can include privacy regulations, court orders, and ongoing criminal investigations as well as national security. Information which was never classified is sometimes referred to as "open source" by those who work in national security.

Levels of Classification used by the U.S. Government

The United States Government classifies information according to the degree which the unauthorized disclosure would damage national security:

Top secret

This is the highest security level, and is defined as information which would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if disclosed to the public. Despite public mystique, relatively little information is classified at "Top Secret" (when compared to the other levels of classification). Only that which is exceptionally sensitive (weapon design, presidential security information, nuclear-related projects, various intelligence information) is classified at the Top Secret level.


The second highest classification. Information is classified secret when its release would cause "serious damage" to national security. Most information that is "classified" is held at the secret sensitivity.


The lowest classification level. It is defined as information which would "damage" national security if disclosed.

Unclassified is not technically a "classification", this is the default, and refers to information which can be released to individuals without a clearance. Information that is unclassified is sometimes "restricted" in its dissemination. For example, the "law enforcement bulletins" often reported by the U.S. media when United States Department of Homeland Security raises the U.S. terror threat level are usually classified as "U//LES" or "Unclassified - Law Enforcement Sensitive." This information is only supposed to be released to Law Enforcement groups (Sheriff, Police, etc.) Because the information is unclassified, however, it is sometimes released to the public as well. Information which is unclassified, but which the government does not believe should be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests is often classified as U//FOUO - Unclassified-For Official Use Only.

It is very serious if they were collecting and disseminating cheap political dirt from a classified document labeled "secret." The definition of secret is secret, and it's a big deal.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Father Tim And The Leak

Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case.

Lewis “Scooter'’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’sidentity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor.

If this is true, the wingnuts are going to have to call Father Tim and poor old Bob Novak liars. I have no doubt they will do it if they have to. But this game gets more and more dangerous for them every day.

And the thing about Libby is just delicious. WTF, did Scooter just blurt out Tim Russert's name without thinking? If he lied about the Monsignor he was making a grave error. There aren't many media figures in Washington who are viewed with any reverence anymore, but he's one of them, as sad a comment as that is. It's a fatal error to get into a he said/she said with a guy like him --- if there's a trial, he's the guy who will be believed.

Oh what a hissy fit these allegedly slick operators had over this one piece of criticism. Anyone with any sense would have known this was just the beginning, as it was becoming obvious that there were no WMD to be found. If they'd have kept their poweder dry for a few days they probably could have come up with a better explanation, but they lost their heads, just like always do under pressure. There really could not have been a worse crew in charge after 9/11. This little episode, in microcosm, is why we are in Iraq today, throwing billions of dollars down the tube, losing our credibility by the boatload and seeing thousands of people die for with no end in sight. No grace under pressure.

Needless to say, this could also be bullshit. William Safire once famously claimed Hillary Clinton was going to be indicted. Rove (or a person who "has been briefed on the matter") already revealed that he learned Plame's name from Novak and then said "Oh I heard that too" or "Oh, you've heard about that?" depending on who's telling the story. We've all been under the impression that Novak agreed that Rove confirmed the story, but maybe he didn't. Or maybe there is some convoluted way in which his behavior can be explained as both learning about it and confirming it at the same time. There's obviously more to this story than we know --- perhaps Fitzgerald is putting together a bigger case than just perjury. Or maybe, as I said, this is bullshit.

But this is getting fun.

Update: According to the NY Times, friends of Rove and Libby are trying to make the case that the two were not trying to out Plame or discredit Wilson --- they were working together on Tenent's statement with Stephen Hadley. It's hard for me to see how this helps them --- it suggest coordination if not conspiracy.

There is one interesting little tid-bit, however: they say Ari testified that he never say the memo on AF One. We've certainly heard otherwise, so Ari may be in a little bit of a pickle too.

All this leaking is looking more and more like internecine fighting among the "subjects." This could get ugly.

Scandal As Metaphor

In an entertaining piece comparing the sad small scale corruption of Duke Cunningham to the titanic all encompassing corruption of Tom DeLay, Noam Scheiber brings up something I think is important:

But it's worth pointing out that, if DeLay loses his job, it won't be because of the machine he has built. It will be thanks to a handful of smaller offenses, such as allowing a lobbyist to pay for his overseas travel--offenses more in line with ... Duke Cunningham's.

How to explain these little perversities? The answer has to do with the press. Most news organizations are profoundly uncomfortable making subjective judgments, however obvious. Instead, the preoccupation is with small, easily provable allegations. When it comes to political discourse, as my colleague Jonathan Chait has pointed out, the result is that politicians get nailed for tiny embellishments but get away with statements that are technically true but spectacularly dishonest, such as George W. Bush's claims about the size of his 2001 tax cut. Likewise with corruption, where the press practices a kind of literalism that dwells on what is officially illegal or improper (like an affair with an intern) while ignoring behavior that is technically OK but ethically obscene.

I think all of that is true, but it's also because scandals that expose human frailty are easier to understand. A fall from grace is the original story, isn't it?
And they are often emblematic of a bigger narrative that is instinctively understood but more complicated in detail than people need to know.

Just as a third rate burglary was a perfect window into an abusive and paranoid Nixon administration, Rovegate is a perfect illustration of the intimidation and arrogance that characterizes Bush. The Lewinsky matter could be said to show the indiscipline that characterized Bill Clinton; Iran-Contra the disconnectedness of an aging, disengaged president.

I'm not saying all those things are the only lessons to be taken from these scandals; far from it. But they engaged the public and the press because they spoke to bigger issues by using people's highly developed instinctive understanding of human character. I don't necessarily think it has to be this way, but it usually is. People seem to need to see and feel the human dimension in order to understand the big picture.

Rovegate is quite interesting in this way, not because it centers around the president but because it centers around the one person who most personifies the modern conservative movement's strategy. And he is the one person who is feared and respected for his effectiveness by people on both sides --- almost to the point of being gifted with magical abilities to tell the future and shape events.

He serves a purpose for both sides in this way, explaining for Democrats their sense of impotence and justifying for Republicans their excesses. None of this is really their doing, you see, and there is nothing they can do to change it; it the product of a brilliant political alchemist who is beyond the scope of normal human behavior or understanding. Fear him or follow him but do not question him.

So, Rove being exposed in a petty, unnecessary act of revenge and overreach, pathetically reaching for Clintonian legalisms and falling back on infantile excuses is a bit of a jolt. Whether by hubris or error, Rove's naked vulnerability is a very useful parable with which to explode the myth of Republican omniscience and explain something that is vastly complex and difficult for average people, much less the compromised kewl kidz, to get their arms around.

Bush's Brain is not omnipotent. The administration that sold itself on simple homespun values and manly virtues has been caught in an act of waspish backstabbing to cover its dishonesty. The war was based on lies and now we are losing it. How could this masterful white house screw this up so badly? These questions can now be asked outside the context of the simple narrative that's been constructed about Bush's honor and Rove's supernatural talents. The scandal opens it up. What has, up to now, been hailed by both sides and in the press as unassailable political mastery is exposed as gross arrogance combined with gross incompetence. That's the story: Mayberry Machiavellis.

Regardless of whether Karl escapes the noose, which he may very well do, Roveism --- defined as politics of the supernatural --- is dead. Cutthroat Republican tactics will be alive and well as they always has been. Roveism was actually never anything more than that.

Feeling Safer

So they've released a few more prisoners from Guantanamo because they "no longer represent a threat to the United States." I'm glad to hear that being as they must have been terrorists and all. Otherwise they wouldn't have been in there in the first place, right?

So, how do we know they are "no longer a threat?" Did they promise never to be terrorists again, cross their hearts and hope to die? Did they swear on the Koran and the Bible and the TV Guide that they will be good-for-goodness-sake?

Gosh I sure hope they did because otherwise I might be tempted to think that they weren't terrorists at all --- which would mean we are holding innocent people down there for long periods of time without due process.

Surely, we wouldn't do any such thing, now would we?
Here's Looking At You Kid

This is rich. Christopher Hitchens is defending outing Plame in the press. He has gone completely down the rabbit hole.

I don't know if any of you remember a little episode of a few years ago in which Hitchens was personally involved in a similar situation, but let me refresh your memory if you don't. In the waning days of the Monica Lewinsky impeachment case, Christopher Hitchens dicided it was his patriotic duty to reveal to the House managers that Sidney Blumenthal had revealed at lunch one day that Monica was a stalker. He signed an affidavit to that effect and it resulted in Blumenthal being one of only three witnesses in the Senate Impeachment trial.

Here's the thing. Hitchens worked himself into a frenzy about this because he claimed this was a concerted effort by the White house to smear Monica Lewinsky, which he believed was a possible criminal act. Hitchens took his boozy self all over TV to moralize endlessly about the White house abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

In this new article in Slate, Hitchens seems to have another view. 9/11 changed everything to mean that up is down and black is white. It's now perfectly legitimate for the White House to blow CIA agents' covers as long as you believe that they aren't sufficiently slurring the word "islamofascism" at every turn and sending the proper messages about freedom by endorsing the liberating of thousands of innocent people from their lives. The infallible cult leader George W. Bush had every right to do whatever was necessary to make these people pay. Besides, everything was the CIA's fault anyway.

Blumenthal on the other hand should be in jail and President Clinton should have been convicted and removed from office because Blumenthal gossipped about Monica's obsession with Bill at lunch one day.

Ipdate: Billmon makes the excellent point that this is a good career move for Hitch.

Judy's Job Description

Atrios points to this very informative article about Judith Miller by Russ Baker. There's a lot to it, but he mentions one thing in particular that has long puzzled me:

Fine. But they owe the rest of the country's journalists --- whose future ability to work with confidential sources and to operate with public credibility is affected by this -- a far greater sense of what Miller's role was in the affair, and of what "nuances" are involved. This can be done without naming the source. For example, Miller could explain what the source told her, and if it was one or more sources, and whether she called the source or the source called her, without revealing the source's identity --- which is the only issue involved in the confidentiality pledge.

This is what I don't get. Why can't Judith Miller write an article about what she knows without revealing her source? She is, allegedly, a reporter.

Matt Cooper wrote an article. Robert Novak wrote an article. Walter Pincus wrote an article. All three have dealt differently with the special prosecutor on the subject of confidential sources. But they ALL wrote articles about what they were told, which means that if they decided to protect their source, they were doing it in service of performing their jobs. And just because she didn't write one at the time doesn't mean she can't write one now. She's still employed by the NY Times.

Reporters write articles in order to inform the public. That is the essence of their job. In order to do that they sometimes have to keep their sources confidential. Miller has not done the one thing she must do to justify keeping her source confidential --- inform the public of what she knows about the story. Neither is there even a bit of evidence that she was ever even working on a story about this subject.

Woodward and Bernstein kept Mark Felt's confidence for decades --- but at the time they were using his information to unravel a complicated story that they were writing about every day. Miller has not written one word on this subject. Even if we grant that she has an obligation to protect liars who use the news media for character assasination, we can't say that she should be able to do this in service of anything but doing her job as a journalist --- either as part of an investigation or a story. And if she has a story, she should be forced by her editors to write what she knows (protecting her source if necessary, just as Cooper did) or be fired for not doing her job.

How she deals with Fitzgerald is up to her. I think when a reporter is used by a powerful members of the government, in their official capacity, to destroy political opponents with lies, that a reporter should be automatically released from any confidentiality agreement. Otherwise, it is nothing but outsourced government propaganda. Others disagree. But that has no bearing on her responsibility as a journalist and employee of the most important newspaper in the world.

Miller may now be saving her information for the blockbuster book she's planning to write, but that doesn't explain why the NY Times didn't insist that Miller do her job and write a story about what she knows, even if she can't reveal who told her about it. It's in the public interest, all the other journalists have done it, why can't she?

Losing Their Touch

So the White House press corps is all up in arms because the Bush White House lied to them about Clement.

I wrote the other day that I couldn't think of one good reason why they would have done it. Many people wrote in to tell me that it was because they wanted to float a woman or distract from Rove or any number of other reasons. I agree that they could have done it for these reasons, but I didn't think those were good reasons, mostly because there was something strange and clumsy about it. But there is one reason that I hadn't considered: it was done for no other reason than to mislead the press just for the day, for purely theatrical reasons.

I read over on bartcop yesterday that Bush was reportedly "furious" that Roberts' name had been leaked before he could announce it in his bizarre, unprecedented, prime-time, no-questions-allowed little pageant. If that's true, then it's likely that they leaked Clement not to assuage people's fears that he hadn't considered a woman and not to put the liberal interest groups off base, and not to float her to get reaction from the Christianists --- but purely to misdirect the press so Junior could unveil a big surprise on National Teevee. Kind of like pulling a rabbit out of the hat, only with the Supreme Court.

That was not the brightest public relations decision they've ever made under the circumstances. So, I stand by my belief that it was a mistake. And it's looking like it was a bigger mistake than I realized at the time.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"I'm A Source Not A Target"

Yup. That's what the button says.

I'm not kidding.

courtesy of the AP/Frankfurt Times via Crooks and Liars --- go there for larger pic and full story.

President Barney

"What I'm telling you is that we're focused here," Bush said from the Port of Baltimore, where he got a waterside demonstration of cargo-screening techniques. "When you're at war, you can't lose sight of the fact that you're at war."

Among the state-of-the-art techniques Bush observed were computerized systems, sophisticated radiation detectors and advanced X-ray equipment.

"You can look inside in the truck, and you don't even have to get in it," Bush said afterward to an audience of state and local officials and port employees. "That's called technology. And it's working. It makes a big difference."

What is he, 6?

Jesushchrist! What in the hell has happened to this country?

Yankee Doodle Judy

Gene Lyons has written an interesting column about Judith Miller and her crusade to protect powerful whitehouse souces who use the NY Times to destroy their critics. Lyons, many may recall, has some particular knowledge of the NY Times and its sources, having chronicled its massive journalistic failure in the Whitewater matter in his book "Fools For Scandal." Let's just say that the Times has a very credulous relationshihp with its sources. In fact, they've made a virtual fetish of being willing tools of lying Republicans over and over again.

Lyons says that Miller should testify:

In a haughty tone familiar to anybody who's ever caught the newspaper with its metaphorical pants down, the editors reminded the prosecutor that they're The New York Times, and he's not. "Mr. Fitzgerald's attempts to interfere with the rights of a free press while refusing to disclose his reasons for doing so, when he can't even say whether a crime has been committed, have exhibited neither reverence nor cautious circumspection."

What rubbish. Reverence, indeed. (To be fair, it's an allusion to James Madison, not a demand to be worshipped.) In making its argument, the Times states it wouldn't print information that "would endanger lives and national security."

So here's my question: In a post-9/11 world, what information could possibly be more sensitive than the identity of a covert agent charged with preventing nuclear proliferation?

Answer: None.

Let's put aside the fact that Judith Miller has long been a passionately outspoken ally of Bush administration neo-conservatives who pushed for war with Iraq. She gave paid public speeches urging Saddam's overthrow. Many journalists have asked why such a partisan was given the Iraqi WMD assignment to begin with. The answer? Access, access and access.

What everybody's ignoring here is that Fitzgerald already knows Miller's sources. That's not what he wants to ask her. His prosecution brief urging her incarceration stipulates that "her putative source has been identified and has waived confidentiality."

Even editor Bill Keller has conceded that there's no imaginable journalist's shield law that would protect her. It's Miller's patriotic duty to talk.

Along Comes Mary

Sorry for the non-existent posting. Busy day. But here's a little Rovegate nugget to ponder: Mary Matalin was called to the Grand Jury to testify. I think we all assumed it was because she worked for Cheney and was a member of the iraq Group. But Mary Matalin left the White House at the end of 2002, six months before the Wilson op-ed and all the hoopla. (And you'll notice that Karen Hughes, also a member of the Iraq Group, was not, to my knowledge, called to testify. She left in 2002 also.)Matalin was hired back after Novak's column broke, specifically to handle the media on the Wilson matter.

He also subpoenaed the guest list for a White House party for Gerald Ford that took place on July 16th, days after the Novak column ran. I would take a wild guess that someone had told the FBI that Plame was mentioned (maybe as "fair game") at the party and Fitzgerald wanted to talk to others who had attended to see if it was being spread around.

He subpoenaed the records of the Iraq Group from July 7th to July 30th, which includes the two weeks after the leak had already been out there.

This brings up one of the questions I think is being overlooked in the Fitzgerald investigation. He seems to have been quite interested in how the White House behaved after Novak's column ran, which makes the most sense if he thinks there was a cover-up or that continuing to spread the information (as Rove admits to doing) was a violation of the law in itself. And, of course, people may have lied to the FBI or before the Grand Jury about all this, which would be criminal, but we don't know.

It's just a curiosity that I have long wondered about. It sure looks like he was thinking, at one point anyway, that he had a potential conspiracy case of some kind. I wonder if he still thinks so?

The Good Old Days

Via Think Progress, we are reminded of Ronald Reagan's words upon signing the Intelligence Identities Protection Act

Whether you work in Langley or a faraway nation, whether your tasks are in operations or analysis sections, it is upon your intellect and integrity, your wit and intuition that the fate of freedom rests for millions of your countrymen and for many millions more all around the globe. …

Like those who are part of any silent service, your sacrifices are sometimes unappreciated; your work is sometimes misunderstood. Because you’re professionals, you understand and accept this. But because you’re human and because you deal daily in the dangers that confront this nation, you must sometimes question whether some of your countrymen appreciate the value of your accomplishments, the sacrifices you make, the dangers you confront, the importance of the warnings that you issue.

He continued

But that's not true. As long as you are provably loyal to the Republican Party above all else and promise to fit intelligence to our preconceived notions, we appreciate everything you do. Otherwise you are fair game.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Back Scratch Fever

In case anyone is wondering if Roberts really is a partisan hack or not, Jeffrey Toobin's book "Too Close To Call" sheds some light on that subject:

The president's first two nominations to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia curcuit --- generally regarded as the stepping-stone to the Supreme Court --- went to Miguel Estrada and John G Roberts Jr., who had played important behind-the scenes roles in the Florida litigation.

"Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But, until that day, accept this justice..."

Up, Up And Away

A commenter asks why I think Clement was floated earlier in the day and it's a good question. I don't think it served any purpose. The only reason to float trial balloons on Supreme Court justices is to guage how they'll be accepted. That is an irrelevant concern for this White House except for one consituency --- the radical religious right. But they have a very direct pipeline to the the leaders of that constitutency and they don't need to float a name publicly to find out how it will be seen by these people. They just have to pick up the Jesus phone.

I think it was a mistake. And I'm surmising that it might just be because things are breaking down a little bit in the vaunted white house message center. Perhaps people are a little bit distracted and not keeping their eye on the ball the way they should? Wonder why?

Honestly, I can't think of a single good reason to do it.

Demographically Correct

Is it just me or is it a little bit odd that the allegedly liberal Washington Post is advertising on this conservative DC blog and not advertising on this liberal DC blog?

It seems particularly odd considering that the conservative blog gets only 1/6th the weekly traffic that the liberal blog gets.

That damned liberal media sure is biased.


White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper during Rove’s first interview with the FBI, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even misleading or lying to them, the sources said.

Also leading to the early skepticism of Rove's accounts was the claim that although he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, he said could not recall the name of the journalist. Later, the sources said, Rove wavered even further, saying he was not sure at all where he first heard the information.

Martha knitted a lovely poncho and lost 25 pounds. Do you think Karl will make such good use of his time?

GOP Creature

My initial take on reading around the web on Roberts is that he's a purely political choice --- a Republican die-hard to the bone. This means that even if he isn't seen as "ideological" in theory, he's ideological in practice. They all are.

He's spent his entire adult life in Washington. He's been a judge for only two years. Before that he represented corporations and worked for Republican administrations. That's it. He's not a scholar or a prosecutor or someone who has ever worked in the trenches. He's a creature of the radical right GOP establishment.

Good choice for Bush. He'll take care of his friends. And he knows exactly what he's supposed to deliver.

The Suspense Is Killing Me

CNN has already announced who the new Supreme Court nominee will be. Yet the president is still going to go live at 9pm est to give us this "news."

And right now, 29 minutes before the big "announcement" CNN is discussing the nominee while a clock ticks down in the corner of the screen telling us how long we have to wait until the president tells us what we already know.

Reason #4672 why the cable news networks are completely worthless.


John Roberts

So what do the shrieking wingnuts think of him? Is he pure enough? Does he speak in tongues, handle snakes, speak directly to Jesus and James Madison about original intent? Fill me in.

Scotus With The Mostest

I think Clement is going to sail through --- unless the far-right has a temper tantrum. So the question is, how do we get as much political advantage from this as possible?

Would it be best to try to bait the far right into blowing it by saying that we think Clement may be the kind of "Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter" centrist that we can live with? You know how they feel about that.

Or do we use the opportunity to ram home all the principles and ideals that we feel are in jeopardy with Republicans in power choosing who gets lifetime appointments?

As I said, she's in. The Gang of 14 are not going to disband over this one. So, how do we get the most out of it?

I'm thinking it might be a good play to rile up the wingnuts while Karl is on the hotseat. Karl probably made this decision, after all. How could he betray them this way?

Update: What? A one day trial balloon? Whatever. We'll know in a couple of hours...


Gawd help us. Apparently Jon Meacham has spent so much time praying with Monsignor Tim lately that he hasn't had time to bone up on the basic facts of the Plame case. It hasn't stopped him from talking about it, though. According to The Daily Howler, he actually said on Don Imus that Wilson was dispatched after the war had started. For real:

How completely clueless was Meacham? This clueless—he actually thought that Wilson’s trip had been commissioned in the spring of 2003, after the war in Iraq was over. He had seemed to imply this at the two-minute mark, bringing our analysts out of their chairs; discussing the political fall-out in the spring 2003 as the WMD failed to turn up, Meacham said that Wilson had “undertaken a mission to go to Niger and discover if these 16 words were true.” Since Wilson’s trip occurred a full year before those 16 words were spoken, it seemed that Meacham was working from a bogus chronology—but even we couldn’t quite believe that the parson could be this clueless. But later, as he gave that brilliant “best guess,” his confusion became all too clear:

MEACHAM: My best guess is that it did come out of the bureaucracy of the CIA, and it may have, it could have originated with the wife.

IMUS: Who asked them to do it, the CIA?

MEACHAM: Well, they were trying—remember, everything was falling apart. So they’ve got to—now, one would hope that they would have undertaken this, done their homework before we had begun a war based partly on this. But things were beginning to very explicitly disintegrate and these documents were—it turned out they’d been faxed through Italy, remember this?—on the uranium. So I think it came out—it probably came out of the CIA, which is supposed to vet all of this.

But this should not surprise us. Meacham proved to us some time back that he has a rather odd notion of reality when he wrote this:

The uniqueness—one could say oddity, or implausibility—of the story of Jesus' resurrection argues that the tradition is more likely historical than theological.

The uniqueness, one could say oddity, of big time celebrity "reporters" who don't know their asses from holes in the ground argues that mainstream journalism is more likely moribund than relevant.

Reading the Wingnuts So We Don't Have To

The Daou Report has a very helpful special page up featuring the musing of both right and left on the Plame Affair. If you want the overview of how both sides of the blogosphere are dealing with the issue this is a great place to go.

Today on the left we are talking about the Iraq lies, parsing the evidence and calling for Rove's head for leaking. On the right they are saying Clinton was worse and the whole thing is boring. It's fun, check it out.

The Cup is Empty

If you have an extra buck or two, my friend Joe Vecchio, who runs Cup 'O Joe "the blog of the working unemployed man," could use a little scratch while his wife's in the hospital.

Bad Advice

If anyone is still in the dark about what is wrong with the Democratic Party, look no further than this:

I just got off the boat. For the past week my family and I have been guests on the R Family Vacations cruise created by Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell. Along with 2000 other people – gay, straight and lots of kids – we sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia and back down to NYC through Boston and Cape Cod. And I was a cynic. Truth is, since I get both claustrophobic and seasick, I had to be brought kicking and screaming on this trip. I just wasn’t in the mood for an onslaught of gayness.

I was wrong. It was a magical vacation...But sailing in international waters gave me a different perspective to the news of the moment. The distance I felt from the hype was much akin to the everyday attitude of a majority of Americans.

Over and over people on the ship asked me why the Democrats are focusing so much attention on Karl Rove and not, instead, providing a better alternative story for the American people to hear. It is a good question.

Karl Rove won’t resign no matter how many blog posts, front page stories or speeches from the floor of Congress take place...So why are Democrats wasting the chance to talk to people about what they really care about? As long as the political conversation is about Karl Rove, the Republicans win. Sure, the President’s current allegiance to Rove is damaging but the White House has obviously made a calculation that it is better to keep Karl around than to get rid of him and have the subject changed. That alone should give Dems a clue as to how important it is for us to change the subject.

It is no sure thing that Democrats will be able to get people to focus on politics at all during these few weeks. But our only hope is to talk about something more relevant. Summer vacation is family time. It is also a time for anxiety for parents. Because instead of worrying about our jobs, on vacation, most parents worry about their kids.


(And lest anyone doubt that the gay and lesbian parents on our cruise have all the same anxieties and commitment to their children as straight parents, rest your concern. In fact, the normalcy of the conversations was soothing.)

Democrats have more answers to the problems faced by families in America today. Now is a good time to try and dominate the conversation with those concerns. When people across the country feel certain that the Democratic political leadership cares more about these issues than scoring political points, we will finally benefit from the President’s dropping approval ratings.

Hold on to your hats folks. This person is a Democratic political consultant. In other words, Democrats pay her for political advice. I'm not kidding.

First of all, her attitudes toward gay people seems to be something closer to an anthropologist finding the lost tribe of Borneo. She wasn't ready for an "onslaught of gayness" but was eventually soothed to learn that gay people are normal. Good for her.

But, of course, the other huge sin is this fucking insane, deranged, bass-akwards, idiotic advice that we should stop talking about Karl Rove so we can swing the conversation toward child care. She actually said that as long we are talking about Karl Rove, the Republicans win.

Oh yes, by all means let's drop this hot potato and schedule a press conference about parental anxiety. The cable shows and the papers are clamoring for that kind of copy. They can't get enough of it. Perhaps we can get all the elected Democrats to stand on the steps of congress and sing "I'm a little teapot, short and stout" for the evening news. Meanwhile, let's just let the criminals in the White House blow up the world. After they're done, we'll have a helluva parental leave policy to enact. Unfortunately we won't have a country.

Seriously, as long as we have this white house off balance, not controlling the message and the agenda, the Republicans lose. Really. The Democrats can't "win," you see, because we have no power to legislate or mandate fuck-all. Our only job is to stop the Republicans from destroying the country any more than they already have and lay the groundwork for winning elections. Taking on Republicans is a vital part of that job.

I'm sure that Rosen had a lovely time with the liberals on the ship who all were parroting the conventional wisdom "but the Democrats don't have any ideas!" or "nobody knows what the Democrats stand for" which Rosen, the professional political consultant, took for some sort of homespun wisdom. If she thinks being on a cruise with 2000 people who can afford to spend a week with Rosie O'Donnell and her family is like being an average American she needs her head examined.

Here's a clue for the professionals who hear this shit at cocktail parties: people say this because they don't have anything else to say. These mantras are conversational elevator music, things that people say in social situations that are uncontroversial, genteel and guaranteed to result in agreement. These political platitudes are conversational filler that are often used to obscure the fact that the speaker isn't really conversant with the details or because they really, really don't want to get into an argument. And it's exactly the type of bullshit that you see among super liberals who feel they have to temper their overwhelming feelings of shadenfreude with public tut-tutting about the terrible waste of it all in light of all the real problems in the world.

I don't understand how anyone can become a political consultant without having some instinct for the manners of even her own social class. Ms Rosen should probably re-read her copy of Pride and Prejudice and concentrate on something besides Mr Darcy this time. She'd learn something about human nature.

There is no way we will ever again be in a position to help families or do anything else as long as our politicians are being advised by people like this.

Update: I've been reliably informed that Hilary Rosen is gay. It's good to know that she discovered on her trip that other gay people are normal. She must be so relieved.

Hot Links

For those of you who are enjoying playing Nancy Drew in this Rove case, here is a great link resource to official documents related to Plame. Have fun!

The Smoking Notes

I somewhat regrettably waded into the minutia of the Rove case last week-end and am now stuck with revising what I said everytime I become aware that I got something wrong in order to hold up the honor of the self-correcting blogosphere. So here goes.

I wrote that I thought the person who wrote the June 10th classified memo was the same INR analyst who had been quoted liberally in the SSCI report and who was evidently the one who noted that "it appeared that she [Plame] had arranged the trip" in his notes of the meeting. I won't go into it here --- if you need a nap you can read my whole post.

Anyway, I was challenged by emptywheel at The Next Hurrah (who wrote this excellent post called "Anatomy of the WH Smear defense" and this one, called "About That INR Memo") who was working the same angle, but who concluded that the memo may have been based on this INR's notes but that it appeared it was written by someone else. (We are interested in this because it might have been someone juicy from Bolton's gang, for instance.) Anyway, I said I preferred the simple explanation that the one who wrote the notes probably wrote the memo.

I was wrong because I think I know who wrote the notes and he was long gone from the State Department when the memo was written. I'm pretty sure that the INR analyst was Greg Thielman, one of the good guys. He's one of the few people who went on the record that they administration was cooking intelligence.

I had written in a draft of the post that I thought it was ironic that the INR analyst who apparently spilled the beans on Plame in his notes (which was picked up in the "work-up" later done on Wilson in May of 2003) was also the guy in the SSCI report who was most skeptical of the Niger connection and who backed Wilson's interpretation of events. (You should read how tortured the analysis was to come up with some factual basis for the Niger connection. It's shockingly thin.)

Anyway, here's the gist. Greg Thielman left the State Department in September of 2002. But he left his notes behind. When Wilson's story started to surface in the press, the white house or somebody ordered someone to put together a file on how Wilson was sent on the trip. (Although Wilson never said Cheney directly sent him, the inference was that he knew.) So the INR went through its files on the matter and put together a report. (I suspect the other agencies did the same thing.) This report contained a nugget of information that nobody else had --- that Wilson's wife had sent him on the trip.

That was seized upon as a good smear and the rest is history.

The reason I believe it was Greg Thielman who wrote the notes in question is because the SSCI report indicates that the same person who wrote the report Niger: Sale of Uranium Unlikely is the same person who noted that "it appeared" Wilson's wife arranged the trip. Greg Thielman wrote that report.

If you are at all interested in this subject, check out this PBS interview with Thielman. Has anybody talked to him lately?


Monday, July 18, 2005

Tangled Up In Yellowcake

Responding to my quip about Rove not being in town to "warn off" 60 Minutes from its embarassing TANG story, Lukery of Wotisitgood4 reminds me in the comments that the TANG story actually knocked off another big story that 60 Minutes had been working on for months: The Niger forgery story.

If you'll recall, after Rathergate 60 Minutes decided to withhold the story entirely. I have been unable to ascertain if it was ever shown, but I know I didn't see it.

Salon magazine saw a tape of the show and reported this:

The importance that CBS placed on the report was evident by its unusual length: It was slated to run a full half hour, double the usual 15 minutes of a single segment. Although months of reporting went into the production, CBS abruptly decided that it would be "inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," in the words of a statement that network spokeswoman Kelli Edwards gave the New York Times.

The real reason, of course, was that because of CBS's sloppy reporting on the Bush National Guard story, the network's news executives believed they could no longer report credibly on the heart of the Iraq nuclear issue, involving another set of completely forged documents: those purporting to show that Iraq had purchased yellowcake uranium from the African country Niger.

Salon was given the videotape by CBS News on the condition that we report on it only shortly before it was to air. But after the network effectively spiked its own story (which was reported by Newsweek online and by the New York Times), we sent an e-mail late last week to CBS stating that we believed that the embargo no longer applied. We received no reply and therefore feel free to report.


Whatever the case, the CBS producers apparently decided to concentrate on what could be nailed down: the Bush administration had, either intentionally or with breathtaking credulity, relied on patently false intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

"Two years ago, Americans heard some frightening words from President Bush and his closest advisors," Bradley said in his introduction of the now-shelved report. "Saddam Hussein, they said, could soon have a nuclear bomb. Of course, we now know that wasn't true." Not only did Saddam not have a nuclear program, Bradley said, but "he hadn't for more than 10 years. How could the Bush administration be so wrong about something so important?"


In his closing, Bradley explains how fiercely the White House fought his report. Administration officials and Republicans in Congress turned down "60 Minutes'" requests for interview. So did former Rep. Porter Goss, the Florida Republican whom Bush has appointed as the new director of the CIA.

"60 Minutes" defied the White House to produce this report. But it could not survive the network's cowardice -- cowardice born of self-inflicted wounds.

What a shame. The TANG story really was old news and the only people who still cared about Vietnam were hardline republicans who were always going to vote for Bush. This story was about a real scandal.

It is interesting, though, that the White House fought this story tooth and nail but didn't say a word when 60 Minutes ran the story about the Killian documents past them. You can understand why these people believe so fervently in God. 60 Minutes killed the serious story about forgeries that would have fed right into the Democrats' story line about Iraq so that they could show a senational story about Bush that was based on forgeries. God was definitely rooting for the Republicans that day.

I wonder if 60 Minutes is recovered enough from their trauma to think about finally running (or rerunning) this story. Or do they still think it's inappropriate?

Case Closed

We can all close shop on Rovegate. The freepers have it all figured out:

Joe Wilson already admitted she was not under cover and:

Plame was not a covert agent. She had not been covert for nine years as she was outed by Aldrich Ames prior to 1994 and then again by the Cubans. She was assigned a desk job as an analyst at that time for her own safety.

The identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame was compromised twice before her name appeared in a news column that triggered a federal illegal-disclosure investigation, U.S. officials say.

Mrs. Plame's identity as an undercover CIA officer was first disclosed to Russia in the mid-1990s by a Moscow spy, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In a second compromise, officials said a more recent inadvertent disclosure resulted in references to Mrs. Plame in confidential documents sent by the CIA to the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Havana.

The documents were supposed to be sealed from the Cuban government, but intelligence officials said the Cubans read the classified material and learned the secrets contained in them, the officials said.

Washington Times

She would have had to have been covert in the last five years for Rove to have broken the law, per former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Victoria Toensing, who helped draft the 1982 law in question.

For Plame's outing to have been illegal, the one-time deputy AG explained, "her status as undercover must be classified." Also, Plame "must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years."

Case closed.

So, there you go. The bizarro world version of the Plame case brought to you by the Washington Times and Newsmax.

Oh, and there's one more interesting little bit of speculation that I think we all need to think about. (These freepers are sharp.)

And we're to believe that Judith Miller went to jail to protect Karl Rove?

Really. I am so very interested to know what the Prosecutor knows about Judy Miller that we don't. Is this going to end up with The Plame-Wilsons in jail?

I've read that elsewhere. There really is a theme on the right that Fitzgerald is actually going to indict Joseph Wilson and his wife. This is understandable. In their experience federal prosecutors are all Republican hacks who work hand in glove with Drudge and Lucianne Goldberg. In their view the rule of law says that only Democrats are criminal. (And note the derisive "Plame-Wilson." Does Karl know his people or does Karl know his people?)

And then you have to really love this one:

and I'm sure he'll go right ahead and shut the whole thing down.

And end his lucrative gig?

Fitzgerald's in it for the money.

Remember, this is the base that Karl and Junior have so carefully cultivated and are valued over any other constituency in the country. Doesn't it make the hair on the back of your neck stand up?