Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Two Republican Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee have joined Democratic Senators in calling for a Senate investigation of the Bush administration's domestic NSA spying operation, according to this Reuters story by Adam Entonus.

The significance of this is that Republicans on Senate Intell. are breaking party ranks in calling for the congressional probe, and also defying the White House which opposes any inquiry.

Joining the Democrats were Republican Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. The proposed congressional probe would be a joint inquiry by both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I have a brand new, long reported out column and appreciation of the columnist and muckraker Jack Anderson posted tonight at the Village Voice. I worked for Jack when I was still just a kid, when I was 18 and 19 years old. And to anyone who likes anything about my own journalism, many of my wayward journalistic values come from that early, arrested time in my professional development.

The appreciaton is in some part derived from my earlier blog post immediately following my learning of his death. But I have a few additional interesting comments about Jack from Seymour Hersh and, also, from Mark Feldstein, an Anderson protege who is now writing a biography of him for FSG.

A couple of anecdotes from the Voice column:

He always enjoyed a good prank. In his memoirs, "Peace, War, and Politics: An Eyewitness Account", published in 1999, Anderson wrote about how I once called up a notoriously pro-Richard Nixon columnist, Victor Lasky, and impersonated Nixon. Lasky never for a moment doubted that he was talking to the ex-president. What Jack left out of the story was that he put me up to the call in the first place, and that he was listening in on the extension the whole time.

And a better one about Feldstein, who went on becone a great investigative reporter for CNN, and is now a journalism professor at George Washington University:

Still in braces, Feldstein landed an internship with Jack when he was 16 and still in high school. Feldstein had on the tie he had worn to his Bar Mitzvah day as he accompanied Gary Cohn, then another young Anderson reporter, to interview a Congressman. The Congressman called security on them, believing them to be impostors.

While Jack wasn't helping bring down the Nixon presidency, safeguarding democracy from the likes of J. Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy, and writing the most widely read political column of his day--he served the public as well by keeping us kids off the streets!

"[O]n December 6, President Bush summoned New York Times publisher Arthur Szulberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futule attempt to talk them out of running the story," according to Jonathan Alter.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent this handwritten letter to Vice President Cheney on July 17, 2003, after being told by Cheney of the covert domest NSA domestic spying program.

Unbelievable. Some excerpts:

I am writing to reiterate my concern regarding the sensitive intelligence issues we discussed today.

Clearly the activities we discussed raise profound oversight issues. As you know, I am neither a technician or an attorney. Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel, on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities...

I am retaining a copy of this letter in a sealed letter envelope in the secure spaces of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ensure I have a record of this communication.

The former Senate Majority and Minority leader, Tom Daschle, says tonight in a statement that the White House “omitted key details” from him related to the NSA interception program, directly contradicting statements by President Bush that Congress was fully informed. Expect the congressional notification issue to get major play in tomorrow’s newspapers, and in coming days, as other members begin to more publicly discuss what they were and were not told.

For now, here is the full text of Daschle’s statement tonight:

Between 2002 and 2004, the White House notified me in classified briefings about NSA programs related to the war on terrorism. The briefers made clear they were not seeking my advice or consent, but were simply informing me about new actions. If subsequent public accounts are accurate, it now also appears the briefers omitted key details, including important information about the scope of the program.

Even with some of the more troublesome - and potentially illegal - details omitted, I still raised significant concern about these actions. As such, I am surprised and disappointed that the White House would now suggest that none of us informed of the program objected.

As a result of the significant legal and security concerns raised by the President's actions, I believe it is incumbent on the President to explain the specific legal justification for his actions, for the Congress to fully investigate these actions, and for the Administration to fully cooperate with that investigation.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Jack Anderson: A Remembrance

The columnist and muckraker Jack Anderson has died. He was 83, and suffering from Parkinson's.

From Joe McCarthy to Richard Nixon, he took on all of them, and was, despite all his shortcomings, when it came to his journalism, fearless. In the current day as the public has pushed back against insider, access journalism--whether it be that of Bob Woodward, Judith Miller, or Robert Novak--Anderson understood it was his role to be an outsider, not just in regards to the politicians he covered, but also to the established order of journalism, which has always been part of the problem.

I hope to blog and write about him some more in coming days, and link to some of the better articles, remembrances, and obituaries that are sure to come.

By way of disclosure, he was my first boss in journalism. He put me to work for him between my freshman and sophomore years in college. I was eighteen at the time. The power of his column was so great that I could get a Congressman or Deputy Secretary of Defense on the phone in ten minutes, the person I was calling always anxious as to why someone from Jack's office was phoning. The phone was always better than visiting in person: When I went out for interviews, the subjects often took one look at me and just laughed out loud. I may have been eighteen, but I was one of those kids who was eighteen looking like fifteen. The cherub, however, always got the last laugh in over 1,000 newspapers.

He always liked the kids like me that worked for him. The Times notes that Jack began his own journalism career at a very young age: "At 12, Jack began editing the Boy Scout Page of the Desert News, a [Mormon] church-owned newapaper. He soon progressed to a $7-a-week job with a local paper, the Murray-Eagle, where he bicycled to cover fires and traffic accidents."

"At 18, he landed a reporting job at the Salt Lake City Tribune."

In 1947, he was hired on as a "leg-man" for Drew Pearson. He took over the column from Pearson in 1969.

The Times says his column had more than forty million readers at its height. Still, he never took himself too seriously, nor did those of us who worked for him. Early on in my job, his famous secretary/gate-keeper Opal Ginn suggested that I go out and buy a beer for my new boss. A non-drinking, devout Mormon, he simply said thanks, and never mentioned it again.

He always enjoyed a good prank. In his memoirs, he wrote about how I once called up a notoriously pro-Richard Nixon columnist, Victor Lasky, and impersonated Nixon. Lasky never for a moment doubted that he was talking to the ex-President. What Jack left out of the story was that he put me up to the call in the first place, and he was listening in on the extension. The Times wrote this morning that he had forty million readers at the height of his column, but I have a... blog!.. and now too sadly, too sad for words, once again have the last word.

He paid me $75 a story to start, and he later raised my pay to $125 a column, until I started to write more than one a week, whereupon he decided I deserved something more "permanent" and a "raise": I was going to now make a regular salary of $125 a week!

Mark Feldstein, a friend, who currently is a journalism professor, and is writing a biography of Jack for FSG, told the AP earlier this morning: "He was a bridge for the muckrakers of a century ago and the crop that came out of Watergate." Feldstein somehow landed an internship with Jack while still in high school.

I think he thought it was in the highest traditions of constitutional democracy, simultaneously in a mischievious and high-minded League of Women's Voters kinda way, to have kids not old enough to legally drink to demand answers from the most powerful people who run our government. He had nine kids at home and he had just as many at the office, and time for all of us.

Among the other reporters who worked for Jack during the same period I did were Tony Cappacio, who has distinguished himself over the years with his reporting on the Pentagon; Gary Cohn, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and is currently an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times; Howard Rosenberg, a reporter and producer for CBS News; Howard Kurtz; the late Joe Spear; and Les Whiten, who for a while co-bylined Jack's column and later became a novelist. Simply working for the column, and him, was an education in and of itself, and had indelible impacts on the way we now go about our reporting.

His journalism was not without serious faults. As Mark Feldstein has written: "To be sure his flaws could be glaring. He was bombastic and self-righteous, even when retracting false stories, such as his false report that a Democratic Vice Presidential nominee [then-Sen. Tom Eagleton in 1972] had been arrested for drunk driving. The muckraker's unsavory techniques included threats, rifling through garbage, and financial relationships with sources.. His cliche-ridden evangelical style was an anachronism that sacrificed complex truths for simplistic but dramatic portrayals of good guys vs. bad."

But his body of work (although he would edit out my phrase "body of work" here as too pretentious)--his exposes of Joe McCarthy, his reporting on Nixon White House, Kissinger, and Watergate; and on the institutional abuses of the CIA and FBI--are clearly without parallel by any other investigative reporter of his era.

And those he wrote about pushed back. J. Edgar Hoover was fixated on evening scores with both Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, at a time when there were virtually no checks on Hoover's power. Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy spoke of scheming to have Anderson murdered, after it was suggested that the Nixon presidency would be well served by the disappearance of the columnist from the Washington scene. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed by Nixon's men, and Jack died peacefully in his sleep, in his own bed, at the age of 83.

Sometimes it was personal: The Washington Post's obit quoted him saying many years ago: "Contrary to popular theology, there is nothing that produces as much exhiliration and zest for living as an ugly, protracted, bitter-end vendetta that rages for years and comes close to ruining both sides." Hoover and Nixon did themselves in, long before, thankfully, they had a chance to do in Jack.

The pressures on journalists to do this type of work today are more from within than without: corporate bosses who do not view what we do as a public trust; an insular Washington press corps that does not tolerate anyone within its ranks deviating too far from the conventional wisdom; and the Bill O'Reilys and chattering cable class that are practicing something other than journalism, even as they hide behind its ever diminishing good name.

Forget pressures from without, as Michael Massing wrote in a recent essay in the New York Review of Books, "Today's Reporters: The Enemy Within." A foot race is taking place as to who will cause the public to lose whatever confidence they place in us: those in power who do not like the fact that a diminishing number of us continue to challnge them, or journalists themselves, journalists who themselves cluelessly lend the impression that self absorption and acceptance by the elites they cover are their driving values.

The "social calendar" is now the pervasive drive, Massing writes: "The most popular [event of the journalistic social calendar] is the White House Correspondents' Dinner. This year, hundreds of the nation's top journalists showed up at the Washington Hilton to mix with White House officials, military brass, Cabinet chiefs, diplomats, and actors. Laura Bush's naughty Desperate Housewives routine, in which she teased her husband for his early-to-bed habits and his attempt to milk a male horse, was shown over and over on the TV news; what wasn't shown was the journalists jumping to feet and applauding wildly.

"Afterward, many of the journalists and their guests went to the hot post-dinner party, hosted by Bloomberg News. On his blog, The Naton's David Corn described arriving with Newsweek's Mike Isikoff... Seeing the long line, Corn feared he wouldn't get in, but suddenly"--thank God!--he was "whisked" into the "entourage" of a media celebrity who had entry.

The key word here is "entree"--whether it be Judith Miller's entree to Scooter Libby, Michael Wolff getting the right table at Michael's or mention in the right gossip column, David Corn's entree to the right after-party, or the beat repeater's entry to the two o'clock briefing.

Jack never gave a damn about entry. That alone did not make him a truly great investigative journalist. But it is the first step along the way at even having a shot to become one.

Like all of us, Jack coveted acceptance by his peers, but even his one Pulitzer Prize for reporting about the Nixon's administration's secret diplomacy towards India and Pakistan was a reluctant nod by the journalistic establishment that it was more necessary for their own credibility to acknowledge him than he them.

One last personal note: Don't ever put off visiting those people who have been part of your life when they are seriously ill. You will very much regret it. Even though I knew that Jack was so ill, I kept putting off plans to go over to visit with him because of deadlines at work and family obligations.

I did have a nice chat with him over the phone not too long ago; he was enduring both the ravages of Parkinsons and of being bed-ridden with considerable grace and humor. We talked for a long, long while, and the conversation was mostly private. But then he grew tired, and he told me he was going to have a feeding tube replaced: "A great moment in history! Columnist to have feeding tube replaced," he said. But he was indeed there for so many great moments in history, even sometimes effecting changes of history all by himself.

And then as he grew tired, and as someone--a family member, a nurse, I am not sure who, was entering the room--he said he had to go. It was too soon. He had to go too soon, and he was gone too soon.

I will deeply miss him.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Washington journalism for sale

A syndicated columnist and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, Doug Bandow, resigned earlier this week from the libertarian think tank after it was learned that he had accepted payments from disgraced and indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing “op-ed articles favorable to positions of some of Abramoffs clients”, Business Week Online reported tonight.

Here is something that I know beyond what was reported in the Business Week story tonight: It is not going to stop with Bandow. Abramoff spread money around not just to Bandow but to other think tankers and Washington pundits, according to what some co-operating witnesses in the Abramoff investigation have told federal investigators.

And some other elements of this story that should be followed up on: What disclosure rules do Cato, the American Enterprise Institute, and other think tanks have for op-ed columnists that cite their affiliation when they send out columns to newspapers? Do newspapers and newspaper syndicates require their columnists to disclose potential financial conflict of interests before they publish? Obviously there should be systems in place. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before we learn of the next Doug Bandow or Armstrong Williams, and the public rightfully distrusts everything they learn from their media.

In the meantime, here are some relevant excerpts from the Business Week story:

After receiving Business Week Online’s inquiries about the possibility of payments, Cato Communications Director James Dettmer and the think-tank determined that Bandow “engaged in what we consider to be inappropriate behavior”… and accepted his resignation.

Bandow has written more than 150 editorials and columns over the past five years each identifying his Cato affiliation. His syndicated column for Copley New Services is featured in several hundred newspapers around the country. Bandow’s biography on the Cato Institute Web site says he also appeared as a commentator on all the major television broadcast networks and the cable news channels.

A former Abramoff associate says Bandow and at least one other think-tank expert were typically paid $2,000 per column to address specific topics of interest to Abramoff's clients. Bandow's standing as a columnist and think-tank analyst provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff teamwere using to try to sway Congressional action.

Bandow confirms that he received $2,000 for some pieces, but says it was "usually less than that amount." He says he wrote all the pieces himself, though with topics and information provided by Abramoff. He adds that he wouldn't write about subjects that didn't interest him.

Abramoff was indicted in Florida in August on wire-fraud charges in relation to hispurchase of a Florida casino-boat company. He faces trial in January in that case.

Separately, a Senate committee and a Justice Dept. task force are investigating allegations that Abramoff defrauded some of his clients -- a handful of American Indian tribes that had gotten wealth from running casino-gaming operations on
their reservations. Abramoff's business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to corrupt public officials with gifts, including political contributions, and defrauding clients, and is cooperating with the ongoing probe.

A review of Bandow's columns and other written work shows that he wrote favorably about Abramoff's Indian tribal clients -- as well as another Abramoff client, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands -- as far back as 1997. One column, syndicated by the Copley News Service, saluted one Abramoff client tribe, the Mississippi Choctaws, for their entrepreneurial spirit, hard work, and commitment to free enterprise. "The Choctaws offer a model for other tribes," Bandow wrote. It only gets worse from there.

Read the Business Week story here. The New York Times also follows up.

I have a brand new National Journal story out this morning about Karl Rove and Bob Novak, telling much of the plot/backstory for the first time as to what may have gone down during their infamous July 9, 2003 telephone conversation, which led to Novak's outting of Valerie Plame.

As it turns out, the conversation was like a scene out of a David Mamet play. Much of the conversation was an attempt--unsuccessful--by Rove to talk Novak out of publishing a column critical of Frances Fragos Townsend, who President Bush had just named as his deputy national security advisor for combatting terrorism. The OVP and I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby were behind leaks to discredit Townsend, and Rove had been personally tasked by President Bush to defend Townsend.

It was after Rove and Novak were apparently done discussing Townsend, if their accounts are to be believed, that they then moved on to the subjectValerie Plame. We now know what became of that.

The irony, perhaps too obvious to point out, is that during the very same telephone conversation that Rove was engaging in a damage control effort to defend against an OVP/Libby effort to discredit Townsend, he was working in tandem with Libby and the OVP to discredit Valerie Plame.

In other Novak news, CNN has terminated their twenty-five year plus relationship with him. No worries, he still probably makes a few hundred thousand dollars more than this blogger.

The indispensable Jim Romenesko has the memo sent out by CNN PR guy Edie Emery: "We appreciate his many contributions and wish him well in future endeavors." Sounds like Mr. Emery is cribbing from Bill Keller's memo on Judy Miller.

Ordinarily, in a situation like this, some bigwig at CNN is supposed to wish Novak well. `In this case, they left it to the poor PR guy. No worries there, either. Those PR guys get paid the big bucks--just to do stuff like that.

And in still yet in other Novak news: Stop pestering him as to who was his original source (his second being Rove) that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA officer!

Novak said in a speech in Raleigh, North Carolina earlier in the week that if anyone really wants to know, they should ask President Bush. The Great Garboesque Novak just wants to be left alone. He told the John Lock Foundation: "So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the President as to whether he should reveal who the source is.' "

What basis Novak has for making such a claim is unknown. But, in his defense, he only made the comments, after all, during a speech--such speeches are neccessary so that he be able to maintain the life style to which he is accustomed; even more the case now that he has lost his CNN contract.

But no-one should be too hard on him. It's not like a speech given in the middle of nowhere--who knew a reporter would be there?!--those people--those pesky, no good reporters--has to have any basis in fact. It's not like Novak made the statement on CNN or anything. Of course, much of what Novak has passed off as some insider Washington corridor information over the years on CNN hasn't exactly been all that correct. (Thanks to the Daily Show, Eric Alterman, and others for the regular fact-checking.)

(Please, no emails that I am a Novak apologist!)

Novak should given some slack for his miscues on CNN. One should not hold him to the same standard for accuracy and fairness on CNN that one would hold Novak to when he sits down to write his syndicated column. But then, of course, there have been a few things he has reported in his columns over the years that haven't exactly held up, either.

Oh well, I am just going to give up defending this very nice man!

Update, 8:34 P.M. As things turn out, Novak has been hired by Fox! He will soon be holding court with Bill O'Reily and Geraldo Rivera, sometime very soon... too soon.

Second Update, 3:01 A.M, up too late, the following day: Novak gets about $30,000 reportedly for a single speech. For that kind of money, the least he could do would be tell his audience who his second Plame source was. But to tell them to simply stop pestering him about the issue?!... Nobody asked for their money back?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Senator Joe Lieberman in today's New York Times regarding rumors that he might some day replace Donald Rumsfeld as President's Bush's Secretary of Defense: "It's a total fantasy. There's no truth to it."

Asked about the same rumor in this morning's Washington Post, Lieberman called it a "Washington fantasy."

What Lieberman left out, and the Post and Times either did not report, or perhaps did not even know, is that the Bush administration did apparently at one time include Lieberman on a very short list to replace former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge as Secretary of Homeland Security. How serious Bush was in his consideration of Lieberman is perhaps only known by the President himself and a few senior advisors. (President Bush, Andrew Card, and Karl Rove don't return phone calls from this particular blog-- yet.)

The more salient point, however, is that the Bush White House let Lieberman know in a very serious sort of way that they were considering him for a cabinet position. My sourcing regarding this are people with direct knowledge of the matter, including a couple of people on Capitol Hill close enough to Lieberman, and had talked directly to him about it at the time.

And, for those who know Lieberman, he would have considered this more than mere flattery. One person who spoke directly to him said it would have been the perfect career coda for a U.S. Senator, former Democratic nominee to be the Vice President of the United States for his party, to then be named to a major cabinet position in a Republican administration.

Lieberman sees his legacy as being another Arthur Vandenberg. (Just read this speech.)

Would talk of appointment as a cabinet secretary have colored his outlook on the Bush administration? Some enterprising reporter should put the question to his Senatorial colleagues.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"A pardon in these circumstances would signal that this White House considers itself above the law... (post updated)

The Democratic Senate leadership today sent a letter to President Bush urging that he vow not to pardon I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, if he is convicted in the CIA leak case.

Below are excerpts from the text of the letter:

Dear Mr. President:
The indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, marks the first time in 131 years that a senior White House official has been charged with a crime while still serving in the White House. The charges, while not yet proven, are extraordinarily serious and deeply disturbing.
Although it is too early to judge Mr. Libby guilty or innocent of these particular charges, it is not too early for you to reassure the American people that you understand the enormous gravity of the allegations. To this end, we urge you to pledge that if Mr. Libby or anyone else is found guilty of a crime in connection with Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, you will not exercise your authority to issue a Presidential pardon.
It is crucial that you make clear in advance that, if convicted, Mr. Libby will not be able to rely on his close relationship with you or Vice President Cheney to obtain the kind of extraordinarily special treatment unavailable to ordinary Americans...

A pardon in these circumstances would signal that this White House considers itself above the law....

The letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and other ranking Democrats in the Senate.

Update, Nov. 8, 3:42 P. M.: According to Reuters, senior White House staffers will be attending ethics seminars in coming days, as well as courses as to how to handle classified information better. Both Karl Rove and David Addington will be among those will attend. Seriously.

Second Update, Nov. 8, 10:06 P.M.: NYT is reporting tonight that Barbara Comstock and other friends of Libby have set up a legal defense fund for him.

Friday, November 04, 2005

A new ABC-Washington Post poll finds that only 39 percent of those polled approve his performance as President, while 60 percent disapprove. Those are the most dismal numbers of his presidency. And a CBS News poll had even more dismal news for the president, with only 35 percent approving of the job he is doing.

But more importantly, a majority of Americans now also question his integrity. The CIA leak investigation has apparently has taken its toll, according to this account:

The CIA leak case has apparently contributed to a withering decline in how Americans view Bush personally. The survey found that 40 percent now view him as honest and trustworthy -- a 13 percentage point drop in the past 18 months. Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- said they have doubts about Bush's honesty, the first time in his presidency that more than half the country has questioned his personal integrity.
Beyond the leak case, Americans give the administration low scores on ethics, according to the survey, with 67 percent rating the administration negatively on handling ethical matters, while just 32 percent give the administration positive marks. Four in 10 -- 43 percent -- say the level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen during Bush's presidency, while 17 percent say it has risen.
Of course the CIA leak scandal is a result of efforts by the administration to discredit critics of its Iraq policy. The naming of the CIA special prosecutor was itself in reaction to White House efforts to blunt charges by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that the administration misrepresented intelligence information in the case to go to war. So what is public support now for the administration's Iraq policy?

Iraq remains a significant drag on Bush's presidency, with dissatisfaction over the situation there continuing to grow and with suspicion rising over whether administration officials misled the country in the run-up to the invasion more than two years ago.

Nearly two-thirds disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation there, while barely a third approve, a new low. Six in 10 now believe the United States was wrong to invade Iraq, a seven-point increase in just over two months, with almost half the country saying they strongly believe it was wrong.
For those with short memories, Bush won the presidency, in part by running against Monica Lewinsky, and vowing to bring integrity back to the presidency.

Speaking of which, here are some interesting numbers from the CBS poll: 51 percent of those survyed find the CIA leak issue to be of "great importance" to the country, while at the height of the Lewinsky probe, only 41 percent found that scandal to be of "great importance." 86 percent of Americans find the CIA leak probe of "some" or "great" importance, while only 63 percent concluded the same thing about the Lewinsky matter.

And the president might be 5,300 miles away from home today, but the majority of his questions from reporters were about Karl Rove and the CIA leak scandal.

Meanwhile, Dan Froomkin has the news of new allegations by Lawrence Wilkerson, the former Secretary of State Colin Powell, linking the office of Vice President to rolling back human rights guidelines regarding foreign detainees.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby appeared in federal court this morning and pleaded not guilty to five felony counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, for his role in the CIA leak case.

The new development out of the arraignment this morning is that Libby has retained an entirely new legal team, including Ted Wells and William Jeffress, Jr. The two are both well respected criminal defense attorneys. Jeffress is perhaps best known for his defense of the nation's largest tobacco companies against Justice Department racketeering charges. Wells had represented former Senator Robert Toricelli and former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

Also, earlier this morning, this report from the Associated Press, datelined Rome:

Italian secret services warned the United States months before it invaded Iraq that a dossier about a purported Saddam Hussein effort to buy uranium in Africa was fake, a lawmaker said today after a briefing by the nation's intelligence chief.

"At about the same time as the State of the Union address, they (Italy's SISMI secret services) said that the dossier doesn't correspond to the truth," Sen. Massimo Brutti told journalists after the parliamentary commission was briefed.

Brutti said the warning was given in January 2003, but he did not know whether it was made before or after President Bush's speech.

The United States and Britain used the claim that Saddam was seeking to buy uranium in Niger to bolster their case for the invasion, which started in March 2003. The intelligence supporting the claim later was deemed unreliable.

Italian lawmakers questioned Premier Silvio Berlusconi's top aide and SISMI director Nicolo Pollari about allegations that Italy knowingly gave forged documents to Washington and London detailing a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500 tons of uranium concentrate from Niger. The uranium ore, known as yellowcake, can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Pollari requested the hearing after the allegations were reported last week by the daily newspaper La Repubblica. Pollari and Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta were questioned by members of a parliamentary commission overseeing secret services.

La Repubblica, a strong Berlusconi opponent, alleged that after the Sept. 11 attacks Pollari was being pressured by Berlusconi to make a strong contribution to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Italian leader is a staunch U.S. ally.

Berlusconi's government has denied any wrongdoing, and the premier has personally defended Pollari amid calls for his resignation.

Berlusconi, in an interview with the conservative daily newspaper Libero published today, said Italy had not passed any documents on the Niger affair to the United States. He added that La Repubblica's allegations were dangerous for Italy because "if they were believed, we would be considered the instigator" of the Iraq war.

The Niger claim also is at the center of a CIA leak scandal that has shaken the Bush administration, leading to last week's indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby...

To read the AP dispatch in its entirety, click here. To read about the Niger forgeries, Laura Rozen and Josh Marshall are blogging and reporting this much thoroughly than this blog.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Maureen Dowd on David Addington

As a public service, to those who cannot afford TimesSelect, or read the New York Times today, I am reprinting Maureen Dowd's column this morning on David Addington in its entirety. Once again, I feel like a teenager downloading Napster. Who ever thought that reprinting something from the New York Times would make one feel like they are circulating Samizdat? But here it is:

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

November 2, 2005 Wednesday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Column 1; Editorial Desk; Pg. 29

LENGTH: 758 words

HEADLINE: Chain, Chain, Chain of Cheney Fools


Scooter used to be Cheney's Cheney.

Now we've got Cheney's Cheney's Cheney.

This is not an improvement.

Once Scooter left, many people, including a lot of alarmed conservatives and moderate Republicans, were hoping that W. and Vice would throw open some White House windows to let the air and sun in, and climb out of that incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole they've been bunkered in for five years.

But they like it in their paranoid paradise. One of the most confounding aspects of W.'s exceedingly confounding presidency is his apparent unwillingness to consider that anyone who ever worked for him -- and was in any way responsible for any of the disasters now afflicting his administration -- should be jettisoned.

This is not loyalty. This is myopia. Where is a meddling, power-intoxicated first lady when we need one? Maybe the clever Nancy Reagan should have a little talk with Laura Bush tonight at the dinner for Prince Charles and Camilla, and explain to her how to step in and fire overweening officials who are hurting your man.

Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory when he promoted two Renfields who are part of the gang that got us into this mess.

Dick Cheney has appointed David Addington as his new chief of staff, an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects. At 48, Mr. Addington is a legend: he's worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib.

Unlike Scooter, this lone-wolf lawyer doesn't reach out to journalists, even to use them as conduits or covers; he makes his boss look gregarious. He routinely declines to be interviewed or photographed.

Vice also appointed John Hannah as his national security adviser, a title also held by Scooter. Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah often battled with the C.I.A. and State as the cabal pushed the case that Saddam was a direct threat to America, sabotaging Colin Powell's reputation when it ''helped'' with his U.N. speech. Mr. Hannah was the contact for Ahmad Chalabi, who went around the C.I.A. to feed Vice's office the baloney intel and rosy scenarios that suckered the U.S. into war.

Mr. Addington has done his best to crown King Cheney. As Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post, Mr. Addington pushed an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that ''favors an extraordinarily powerful president.'' He would go ''through every page of the federal budget in search of riders that could restrict executive authority.''

''He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects,'' Mr. Milbank wrote. ''He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts. Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy.'' And he helped stonewall the 9/11 commission.

The National Journal pointed out that Scooter had talked to Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah about Joseph Wilson and his C.I.A. wife when he was seeking more information to discredit them in the press. Mr. Addington, the story said, ''was deeply immersed'' in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism about warped W.M.D. intelligence, and attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Mr. Wilson.

''Further,'' the magazine said, ''Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq.''

Mr. Addington may as well have turned the documents over for safekeeping to Pat Roberts, because, as it turned out, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee didn't want to investigate anything.

Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet and shut down the Senate.

Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark. Childish, perhaps, but effective. Republicans screamed but grudgingly agreed to take a look at where the investigation stands. But even if the Senate starts investigating again, Mr. Addington, now promoted, will have even more authority not to cooperate.

It's the Cheney chain of command.

The NYT also posted this profile of David Addington on their website.

The major new revelation in the piece (or at least something I did not know) was that after Addington "helped to shape an August 2002 opinion from the Justice Department's office of legal counsel that said torture might be justified" in some cases of interrogating terrorism suspects, "the White House formally repudiated the memorandum after it became public."

Below are some excerpts from the story:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 - Shortly after he became defense secretary in 1989, Dick Cheney installed in the office next door to his own suite a young special assistant named David S. Addington. That move displaced a uniformed officer and rankled the military, but it did not slow Mr. Addington's path to power.

Smart, secretive and direct, Mr. Addington is a man very much in Mr. Cheney's image. Now, at 48, he is at Mr. Cheney's right hand again, succeeding I. Lewis Libby Jr. as the vice president's chief of staff. But while Mr. Addington has spent much of his career in proximity to Mr. Cheney, his admirers and detractors alike say his success is rooted in his mastery of the skills of bureaucratic combat.

"He's regarded within all the parts of government that have come into contact with the vice president's office as a force of nature in his own right," said Bradford Berenson, a Washington lawyer who worked with Mr. Addington in the Bush White House, as an associate counsel. "He tends to accomplish more operating as a lone wolf than do others who are backed by entire government departments."

"There are some people in government who are diplomats and others in government who are warriors," Mr. Berenson said, "and Addington certainly falls on the warrior side of that line." As Mr. Cheney's counsel since 2001, Mr. Addington has been at the center of some of the administration's fiercest fights, advocating expansive presidential powers and limited rights for terror suspects. By most accounts, he has more than held his own, in some cases overshadowing Alberto R. Gonzalez, when Mr. Gonzalez was White House counsel, and shaping the White House view in debates with the Departments of Justice, State and Defense...

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Addington has been one of the most important architects of the administration's new legal structure for the detention and interrogation of terror suspects.

According to current and former officials who worked with him closely, he was a primary author of the Nov. 13, 2001, presidential order that established the military's sweeping powers to detain terror suspects and try them before military commissions. Mr. Addington has also played a central role in efforts to expand the legal authority of clandestine intelligence officers to detain and interrogate suspects in terrorism investigations, those officials said. Among other efforts, they said, he helped to shape an August 2002 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that said torture might be justified in some cases. In an unusual step, the White House formally repudiated the memorandum after it became public last year...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Exclusive: Senate Democrats consider pressing for appointment of special select committee to investigate administration's pre-war intelligence claim

The Senate Democratic leadership over the course of the last several days has had discussions among themselves, along with senior congressional staff, about the possibility of pressing the Senate to appoint a special Senate select committee to investigate both the misuse of pre-war intelligence by the Bush administration to make the case to go to war with Iraq, as well as the Plame affair, according to at least three people who have been involved in those discussions.

"There is just a resolve on this issue that is not going to go away," said one person involved in the leadership discussions. One source said that although the discussions are preliminary, they were contemplating such a select committee in the tradition of the Senate Watergate committee, the Church committee-- which investigated abuses of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in the 1970s, or the joint congressional Iran-contra committees: "There is a historical model as to how this might be done."

Republicans have said that the Senate Intelligence Committee has more than adequately investigated the issues, and that Democrats have been holding up completion of the ongoing probe and have politicized the effort.

Although such discussions are at a preliminary stage, and perhaps hopes of such a select committee are at this time more wishful thinking than reality, Democrats sense a shifting public opinion and a weakened Republican leadership that might beat back their efforts.

It should also be pointed out that any further public pressing of the issue of a select committee might in part be a ploy by Democrats to leverage the Senate Intelligence Committee to finish the so called "Phase II", of its investigation of pre-war intelligence. And whether Republicans would ever agree to such a request, or if ultimately there would be enough public pressure on Senate Republicans to agree, is also another matter.

Emerging from the executive session last night, Senate Minority leader Harry Reid told reporters he thought that he had reached a satisfactory agreement with Senate Republicans as to how to complete the investigation: "Finally, after months and months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we're finally gong to be able to have Phase II of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq."

The first phase of the investigation examined the role of the CIA and other intelligence agencies in wrongly concluding that Saddam Hussein had a viable program to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, when international inspectors, and later U.S. military and intelligence teams could find scant evidence of such.

The ongoing so-called "Phase II" of the investigation has examined the more politically sensitive issue as to whether the Bush administration itself misrepresented the intelligence information to make the case to go to war. But that inquiry has been hobbled by partisan wrangling, and what both Republicans and Democrats have said to be efforts to stymie their inquiry by the Bush administration in not turning over relevant information to the Senate.

A confluence of various events over the course of the last several days led not only to the decision to unilaterally have the Senate go into executive session, but also consider the issue as to whether to press for the appointment of a special Senate select committee.

  • There has been a growing realization in recent days that Democrats and Republicans could not come to a consensus as to how to complete "Phase II" of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of pre-war intelligence, according to several congressional sources. Instead of coming closer to the possibility of completing a report, and then declassifying a final report on the issue, the parties appeared no closer than when they agreed to undertake the inquiry in early 2004.
  • Many members of Congress only learned in recent days from a National Journal article that Vice President Dick Cheney himself; I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the-then chief of staff to Cheney; and Cheney counsel David Addington, had played a personal role in denying the Senate crucial documents necessary to concluding the investigation.
  • The day after the National Journal story appeared, Libby himself was indicted on five counts of lying to federal investigators, perjury, and obstruction of justice, in concealing his role, and perhaps that of other Bush administration officials, in outing CIA officer Valerie Plame in an effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV, a critic of the administration.
  • After disclosures that David Addington, the counsel to Vice President Cheney, was involved in the efforts to prevent the turning over of information to the Senate investigation, Cheney yesterday appointed him as his new chief of staff to succeed Libby. "That didn't bode well that the attitude of the White House on this was going to change anytime soon," according to a congressional aide.
  • Although in the past, CIA leak special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, has refused to turn over any information regarding his inquiry of the Plame matter to Congress, during his press conference on Friday, he said it was not his role to advise Congress not to conduct their own independent inquiry.
Update: Nov. 2, 2005, 11:34 A.M. For those bloggers who think I write too long, Maureen Dowd has since written this column, which somehow encapsulates everything I have written into one two paragraphs: "Angry at the Scooter scandal, the Addington appointment and the Roberts stonewalling, Senate Democrats did something remarkable yesterday: they dimmed the lights, stamped their feet, and shut down the Senate. Tired of being in the dark, the Democrats put the Republicans in the dark."

Senate Democratic Leader Invokes Rule 21, takes senate into executive session (this post will be update continuously)

The Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, has taken the U.S. Senate in executive session, to discuss how the Senate has been stymied in an effort to complete a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of faulty pre-war intelligence that led up to the war with Iraq. The doors of the Senate were locked, the galleries emptied, all staff were ordered out of the Senate chamber, and then lights inside were dimmed. (My personal comments: One has to wonder whether the dimming of the lights was metaphorical in some sense.)

"I demand on behalf of the American people... that the Senate go into close session," Reid said, an action virtually unprecedented because rule 21, which sends the Senate into executive session, is ordinarily done by agreement by both Democrats and Republicans.

Reid explained his actions by saying: "They have repeatedly chosen to protect the Republican administration rather than get to the bottom of what happened and why."

He added: "The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions." Then Reid unilaterally invoked Senate rules that led to the closed session.

An angry Majority Leader Bill First later emerged from the Senate chamber to briefly tell reporters: "The United States Senate has been hijacked by the Democratic leadership.... "They have no convictions, they have no principles, they have no ideas." He subsequently said he felt personally "slapped in the face" by Reid's actions.

Two senior Senate staff aides told me today a story posted on the National Journal's website Thursday night, for the first time linking Vice President Cheney himself, Libby, and Cheney's legal counsel, David Addington, to withholding information from Congress on the pre-war intelligence emboldened the Democrats to take action.

The next day, on Friday, the federal grand jury in the CIA leak case indicted Libby on five felony counts of misleading federal investigators, perjury, and obstruction of justice, for concealing his role, and perhaps that of other Bush administration officials, in outing Valerie Plame.

The confluence of the two events led Democrats to take the fight right to the Senate floor as to how the Senate will now proceed to investigate further the pre-war intelligence issue.

First update, 5:45 A.M: Just watched Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, on Hardball saying that he agreed with First that Reid's actions were a "stunt": "I had to chuck my Alito story," Milbank complained, "and do this for tomorrow."

There was once upon a time when reporters reported, and kept their opinions to themselves. Those days have long passed-- but if journalism has become about opining, instead of reporting, I should note that what was left out of Milbank's comments was that the White House itself also had sped the nomination of a new associate justice for the Supreme Court to change the agenda away from the Libby indictment. And the president's belated announcement today of his request of $7.1 billion of emergency funding to be spent to prevent an Avian flu pandemic was also an attempt to change the subject. If reporters care how much they are supposedly being manipulated, they should say explain that the practices goes on from both sides of the aisle.

Further, whether politics came into play in regards to what took place on the Senate floor today, Milbank's comments were, to my mind, inappropriate in the sense that the motives of politicians, or anyone else for that matter, are often complex and obscure. How he was able to instantly divine the motives of Reid and other Democratic Senators to hundreds of thousands of television viewers is beyond any journalistic ability I possess.

(Not to pick on Milbank, but I am trying to make a larger point that reporters should perhaps gather information-- do actual reporting before they spout off something not the case on television.)

Whether there was a political motive to what Reid today, the truth of the matter is that many Senators felt like they have been lied to, or as one senior staff aide told me, they "felt rolled in an alley"-- in being stymied, as they view it, in conducting an inquiry into the most fundamental issues as to how a country went to war, and whether Congress has a right to oversee whether the administration misused intelligence to make the case.

One of the reasons that Reid chose to go to the floor was because Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, prodded him to so, according to several congressional sources I spoke to today. As vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rockefeller has been praised by Republicans for his bipartisan approach, and has at times even privately drawn the ire of Democrats.

A partisan stunt? Probably not. And for Milbank or others rushing to judgment, they should perhaps stay away from the green room and do some reporting.

And here, by the way, is why Rockefeller says he encouraged Reid to invoke Rule 21: "An iron curtain came down upon us," he said, referring to White House efforts to stymie the provision of information for the Intelligence Committee to conduct their pre-war intelligence probe.

He also said: "The very independence of the United States Congress as a separate and coequal branch of the government has been called into question."

Sounds like a serious matter to me, not a "stunt" as Dana Milbank has charachterized it.

To read Rockefeller's statement in full, click here.

Second update, 6:32 A.M: In the meantime, Josh Marshall has excerpts from the press release from the Office of Vice President regarding the appointments of David Addington and John Hannah, respectively, as the chief of staff, and national security advisor, to Vice President Cheney.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Addington named as new chief of staff to Cheney (updated twice since original post)

Vice President Dick Cheney earlier today named David Addington to replace I. Lewis Libby as his new chief of staff. The appointment comes just as the man he is succeeding-- Libby-- is to be arraigned on Thursday before Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton on five felony counts of making false statements to federal investigators, perjury, and obstruction of justice, for his role in the CIA leak case.

Paul Singer and myself wrote a long investigative profile of Addington on the National Journal's website that appeared yesterday. For a further idea as to what is to come, one senior government official who has worked closely with Addington simply told me today that "he is more Libby than Libby."

Cheney also today named John Hannah to be his new national security advisor. (Libby, before his five-felony indictment on Friday, was simultaneously Cheney's staff of staff, his national security adviser, and special assistant to the President.) Hannah has been Cheney's deputy national security adviser since the first days of the Bush administration. Like Addington, Hannah has been at the center of very much related controversies regarding the misuse of pre-war intelligence by the Bush administration to make the case to go to war, and the Plame affair. This NYT story, by Doug Jehl, is perhaps the best background.

Below are some excerpts from the story that I wrote with Paul Singer about Addington for the National Journal:

On the morning of July 8, 2003, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, then-chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, had a two-hour meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller at which Libby gave information to Miller in an attempt to discredit former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson.
When Libby returned to the White House, he immediately sought out David Addington, the vice president's counsel, according to court records and interviews. During their breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, Libby had promised Miller he would try to find out more about Wilson, and Wilson's wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame. As the former general counsel to the CIA and counsel to the House Intelligence Committee, Addington was the right man for Libby to see.
Libby's and Addington's fates have dramatically changed as a result of the events of that day. Libby, long Cheney's most trusted aide, resigned as the vice president's chief of staff on Friday following his felony indictment on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case. A federal grand jury accused Libby of trying to cover up that he had disclosed the identity of Plame, a covert CIA operative, in an effort to discredit Wilson and his criticism of the administration.
Addington is currently considered the leading candidate to succeed Libby as the chief of staff to a weakened but still powerful Cheney. But Addington's own role in the Plame matter is emerging just as the vice president considers whether to name him as his next chief of staff.
There is no evidence that Addington has done anything outside the law, or that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has regarded him as anything other than a witness during the two-year probe that led to Libby's indictment...
But Addington was deeply immersed in the White House damage-control campaign to deflect criticism that the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to administration and congressional sources.
Moreover, as a pivotal member of the vice president's office, Addington also attended strategy sessions in 2003 on how to discredit Wilson when the former ambassador publicly charged that the Bush administration misled the country in pushing its case for war, according to attorneys in the CIA leak probe.
Further, Addington played a leading role in 2004 on behalf of the Bush administration when it refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee documents from Libby's office on the alleged misuse of intelligence information regarding Iraq. Because Addington may be in line to succeed Libby, the Intelligence Committee-White House battle over the documents has sparked new interest on Capitol Hill...
When Libby and Miller met on July 8, 2003, Cheney's office was involved in an effort to discredit Wilson. The former ambassador had been sent on a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger in 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq was attempting to buy uranium material from the African nation in order to build a nuclear weapon...
At their breakfast meeting, Libby told Miller that Plame worked at the CIA, and also alleged that the CIA sent Wilson to Niger on Plame's recommendation, according to the grand jury indictment.
During the breakfast, according to attorneys familiar with Libby's previously undisclosed statements to federal investigators, Miller insisted that Libby provide her with additional information on Wilson and Plame to bolster any story she might write. Miller testified to the grand jury that it was Libby who offered to find additional evidence to verify what he had told the Times reporter, according to legal sources familiar with Miller's version of events.
Whatever the case, when Libby returned to the White House after meeting with Miller, he sought out Addington. Attempts to reach Addington for comment for this story were unsuccessful. He did not return messages left on his White House voice mail over the course of several days.
According to the grand jury indictment, Libby met with Addington "in an anteroom outside the Vice President's office," and asked Addington, "in sum and substance, what paperwork there would be at the CIA if an employee's spouse undertook an overseas mission."

The indictment does not say what actions, if any, Addington took to learn more about Plame's CIA employment.
Four days after the Libby-Miller breakfast and Libby's discussion with Addington, Libby gave Miller additional information on Wilson and Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Miller's testimony...

To read the article in its entirety, click here. CNN.com has this story tonight on the Addington and Hannah appointments. And I will be on my friend's, Amy Goodman's radio show, Democracy Now, on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the CIA leak probe, the Libby indictment, and the Addington appointment. I personally don't get up at such an early, wretched hour, but if any of you are awake...

Update: 9:32 P.M.: The New York Times has now posted a story on their website about the Addington and Hannah appointments. Some key passages:

Lea Anne McBride, Mr. Cheney's press secretary, said Mr. Addington's new job would also carry with it another title that had been held by Mr. Libby, assistant to the president, placing him in the senior ranks of the White House staff.
Mr. Addington was referred to by job title in the indictment of Mr. Libby on Friday, and appears likely to be called as a witness should Mr. Libby's case go to trial. The indictment referred to a conversation Mr. Libby held with the vice president's counsel on July 8, 2003, in which Mr. Libby asked what paperwork the Central Intelligence Agency might keep if an employee's spouse took an overseas trip...

The appointments, which are not subject to Senate confirmation, suggest that the White House has little intention of bringing in fresh faces in the wake of the indictment...
Known as a strong advocate of presidential power, he has favored a broad reading of the president's power to detain terrorism suspects and to use interrogation techniques that critics say amount to torture. He has also backed the administration's efforts to conduct much of its business behind closed doors, taking a role in the fight over whether Mr. Cheney's energy task force would have to release information about its meetings.
Asked about Mr. Addington and Mr. Hannah at his news briefing on Monday, Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said, "These are two individuals that have served the vice president very well since 2001, and the vice president selected them because he values their judgment and their insight and looked to their experience as people that could fill these two positions."
The choices brought immediate criticism from Democrats, who suggested that Mr. Cheney was thumbing his nose at calls for accountability in the leak case.
"I've called for a thorough house-cleaning in the vice president's office," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, "but what they've done is just rearrange some office furniture. It is time for the president and vice president to bring in a new team of advisers who are above ethical reproach, like Reagan did in his second term, not stonewall like Nixon did during Watergate."
Mr. McClellan said Mr. Bush had no plans to overhaul the top ranks of the White House, despite pressure from Republicans as well as Democrats to bring in new people and new ideas after months in which the administration has stumbled from crisis to crisis.

Second update, Nov. 1, 9:08 A.M. : The LAT has since posted thier own story on the Addington and Hannah appointments, with some more background, written by a good friend of mine, Tom Hamburger, and Peter Wallensten.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby to be charged later today

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak case will later today announce a federal grand jury indictment against I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff, and national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to attorneys involved in the case.

The indictment will focus on charges that Libby mislead federal investigators and the grand jury hearing evidence in the case for the past 22 months, according to the same sources.

Contrary to many news reports that with today's indictment, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has wrapped up his investigation, his inquiry will continue as an ongoing matter.

The prosecutor will still want to hear Libby's later testimony regarding the role of others in the Bush administration in the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame, if at some point Libby were to plead guilty, or be found guilty by a jury, and then further co-operate with his inquiry.

Federal prosecutors have long believed that Libby not only mislead the grand jury to protect himself, but perhaps others in the White House who might have played a role in the outing of Plame, the legal sources said further.

Lost in the more significant news of the moment, the vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, last night renewed demands on
the White House to turn over materials regarding Libby's role in allegedly distorting intelligence information to make the administration case to go to war with Iraq.

Rockefeller was reacting to a report that was posted online yesterday in the National Journal, and which I wrote, disclosing that Vice President Cheney and Libby personally overruled the advice of some political staff and administration attorneys that they cooperate with the committee probe. (see post below for more details.)

Here below is Rockefeller's statement:

"In February 2003 the White House provided input to the CIA during the preparation of Secretary Powell's United Nations speech. During the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq, I believed it was important for the committee to obtain and review the White House drafts.

"On October 31, 2003, I wrote to CIA Director George Tenet requesting this and other White House documents. I repeated that request in writing on two subsequent occasions.

"Despite these and other efforts, the Committee never received the White House documents.

"The fact is that throughout the Iraq investigation any line of questioning that brought us too close to the White House was thwarted.

"For several years, I've called on the Committee and the Congress to get to the bottom of whether this administration misused intelligence in making the case for going to war.

"That question is no less relevant today than it was then."

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee have supported the requests for the Libby papers, and say that their investigation ha been hampered by the non-cooperation.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I have a brand new National Journal piece out tonight as we await the final denouement of Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. Here is the lede and a few key paragraphs:

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq...
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war...

In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech -- which included passages written by Libby -- the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.

In my National Journal article, I mention an aide to Cheney whose name hasn't come up before in either the Iraq pre-war intelligence fiasco and the Fitzgerald investigation, yet has been ubiquitous in both. That is David Addington, the general counsel to the Vice President. Addington has been fairly good at exercsing his authority behind the scenes. But here are some excerpts from a Washington Post profile that might be of interest to some of you:

Since he took office, Vice President Cheney has led the Bush administration's effort to increase the power of the presidency. "I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job," he said after a year in office, calling it "wrong" for past presidents to yield to congressional demands. "We are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years."
Cheney has tried to increase executive power with a series of bold actions -- some so audacious that even conservatives on the Supreme Court sympathetic to Cheney's view have rejected them as overreaching. The vice president's point man in this is longtime aide David Addington, who serves as Cheney's top lawyer.
Where there has been controversy over the past four years, there has often been Addington. He was a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects. He was a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts.
Addington also led the fight with Congress and environmentalists over access to information about corporations that advised the White House on energy policy. He was instrumental in the series of fights with the Sept. 11 commission and its requests for information...
Colleagues say Addington stands out for his devotion to secrecy in an administration noted for its confidentiality. He declined to be interviewed or photographed for this article, and he did not respond to a list of specific points made in the article.
Addington, 47, was a lawyer and GOP staffer on congressional committees on intelligence and the Iran-contra matter, before Cheney chose him to serve as general counsel at the Pentagon when Cheney was defense secretary.
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president.
The unitary executive notion can be found in the torture memo. "In light of the president's complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president's ultimate authority in these areas," the memo said. Prohibitions on torture "must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority. . . . Congress may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield." The same would go for "federal officials acting pursuant to the president's constitutional authority."...
Occasionally, others in the administration have sought to keep Addington out of the loop to avoid his inevitable objections. When the White House agreed, under pressure from Congress, to appoint a commission to investigate the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Cheney's office did not know about it until a reporter from The Washington Post called to inquire.

There has been something of a backlash against Addington's philosophy within the administration, where some believe his aggressive legal arguments have caused the courts to become more suspicious of executive authority...
"Addington adds to the problems the president has with the courts," said Bruce Fein, who was an official in the Reagan Justice Department and worked with Addington during the Iran-contra probe. Fein said Addington is the "intellectual brainchild" of overreaching legal assertions that "have resulted in actually weakening the presidency because of intransigence."

Fein said Cheney and Addington, while arguing that they are reclaiming executive authority, are actually seeking to push it to new levels. Many of the restraints on executive authority -- the War Powers act, anti-impoundment legislation, the legislative veto and the independent counsel statute -- have already disappeared or become insignificant.

"They're in a time warp," Fein said. "If you look at the facts, presidential powers have never been higher."
Harriet Miers has moments ago withdrawn her nomination. Now that's a way to divert attention from the Fitzgerald investigation.

Within minutes of her withdraw, the White House also announced that President Bush had "reluctantly accepted" her withdraw. That was quick.

And this just in from CNN, regarding the CIA leak case: CNN reports that although Karl Rove has told people at the White House that he is not "distracted" by but the CIA leak probe, others in the administration say that he has, in fact, been "distracted." At this blog, we will carefully follow this story, and attempt to indebtedness confirm it.

For those citizen-journalists and blogger-citizens who read this blog, and want to engage in their own enterprise and reporting of the issue as to whether Rove has been distracted or not, they might want to turn on C-Span, and watch tapes of recent presidential speeches and other White House events, where they can spy Rove standing behind of, or to the side of, President Bush. Does Rove actually look distracted? At this blog, we speculate, but you decide. Watch C-Span and decide for yourself.

(Audacious) Spins of the day:

Trent Lott was just on CNN saying that the Miers nomination will be "forgotten by tomorrow."

Miers did what she did as a martyr for the high idea of executive propelled, sacrificing herself for a higher principle. (This is all over the cable shows.)

Candy Crowley on CNN says that the Miers withdraw has created a wonderful "opportunity" for the White House, in that the administration can now sharply "pivot" off any negative news coming from the Fitzgerald grand jury, in making a dramatic, new announcement regarding a new nominee for the high court.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

As we await word from the federal grand jury hearing the CIA leak case (and despite all your phone calls and emails, I really don't know... or pretend to know much more than anyone else), I am reminded of these words written in his diary by Leonard Garment, an former law partner, and later a White House counsel for Richard Nixon, on Christmas Day, 1972, when James McCord was indicted for his role in the Watergate break-in.

Garment was in turn quoting Jose Ortega y Gasset: "We do not know what is happening, and that is what happening."

That seems relevant for this moment.

But even if we learn tomorrow whether the federal grand jury brings charges or not, and if so, who is charged, Gasset's line will be even more relevant then as it is today.

Even though everyone in Washington breathlessly awaits the grand jury, their decisions as to whether to charge won't be an end... as so much a beginning of something much more important and vast.

We will soon hear back from the grand jury, but that will only raise additional questions, taking the President and the nation into murky, uncharted waters.

And once again, we will be left saying: "We do not know what is happening, and that is what is happening."
Josh Gerstein scored this exclusive earlier today, unfortunately not getting credit for his scoop. Well this blog gives him the credit due.

What does it mean that Fitzgerald met with the chief judge? Hard to say. However, he would have to do so to extend the life of the current grand jury, which expires on Friday, or to ask to empanel an entirely new one.

One thing to keep in mind: Just because Fitzgerald would want to extend the life of his grand jury does not mean that he is not about to soon bring charges. Even if the sitting grand jury were to bring charges, Fitzgerald would still want a grand jury to continue to hear evidence.

Why? He might want to bring charges against a potential defendant now, as he considers additional charges. Or there is always a possibility that a potential defendant... once convicted, might "flip" and later implicate someone else. I'm not saying that is the case here, but that is routine in federal criminal white collar investigations.

But don't take my word for anything! This morning, when I spoke to Josh, I told him that I thought it would be a massive waste of time to stake out the grand jury room near the federal courthouse. There would be so many reporters there, there was no way he would score an exclusive of some kind... Obviously, if I know so little about journalism, how could I know much about the law?

Below are excerpts from Josh's story:

Prosecutor Meets With Chief Judge
Could Signal That Fitzgerald Is Seeking Extension

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 26, 2005

WASHINGTON—The federal prosecutor investigating the alleged involvement of White House officials in the leak of a CIA operative’s identity spent most of the lunch hour today meeting with the chief judge of the federal district court in the nation’s capital, Judge Thomas Hogan.

As reporters massed outside an elevator lobby leading to the grand jury rooms, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, apparently slipped out a back exit to conduct the noontime meeting with Judge Hogan.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment as he and a colleague emerged from the judge’s chambers just before 1 p.m.

The prosecutor’s visit to the chief judge could signal that Mr. Fitzgerald wants to continue his investigation, either by extending the term of the current grand jury or begin presenting evidence to a new jury. The grand jury that has heard witnesses in the leak case was set to shut down on Friday.

Under federal law, most grand juries are limited to two years. The present one appears to be reaching its legal time limit, but because of the secrecy surrounding the process it is difficult to know for certain.

Prosecutors involved in the politically-sensitive probe met with grand jurors for about three hours this morning, before wrapping up business at the courthouse for the day.

There were also other reasons to expect that the investigation, once believed to be concluding this week, may continue.

It was not clear why Mr. Fitzgerald chose to use a back stairway or elevator to reach his session with the chief judge, but if he took the usual route he would likely have been followed by a parade of journalists who gathered at the courthouse to await predicted indictments in the case.

Reporters expressed bewilderment as Mr. Fitzgerald returned to the grand jury area without ever having appeared to have left.

In addition to the grand juries, Judge Hogan also oversees most of the practical aspects of running the courthouse. It is possible that Mr. Fitzgerald’s visit was to discuss how court personnel would cope with the indictment and arraignment of high-profile White House officials.

A former prosecutor who worked with Mr. Fitzgerald in New York said it was impossible to say for certain what the meeting was about.

“If he wanted to extend the grand jury, he’d have to ask the chief judge,” the ex-prosecutor, Joshua Berman, said. “It’s obviously a process that Pat is familiar with.”

The headline on Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing blog this afternoon is "Rove's Last Campaign."

Dan asks: "Will Karl Rove, architect of President Bush's political career, snatch one last victory from the jaws of defeat? (Or at least avoid getting indicted?)"

He raises a very interesting issue: If Rove is indicted by the federal grand jury, he will hardly be your ordinary defendant. It is not just that he is the chief political advisor to the President of the United States. Rather, I am referring to the fact that he would be a defendant who is skilled and versed as few others in public relations, polling, and damage control. He is, also, a political genius-- albeit an evil genius to those of you of the opposite political persuasion.

Unlike most of us, he also can hire the best and most expensive of legal talent: in this case, Robert Luskin, and Patton, Bogg, et al. (If I or many of my friends were in legal jeopardy, we might be lucky to retain Hyatt Legal Services.) But aside from such legal resources at his disposal, Rove is a political strategist. And he will mount a defense that is likely to be every much a political campaign as legal campaign. To not do so would be in variance with his innate nature.

Obviously, Rove must have long ago given this some thought. There are attorneys who believe that you litigate and defend clients in the courtroom. David Kendall, the Clintons' attorney for Whitewater case and impeachment saga, was of that variety. Bob Bennett, who defended Clinton in the Paula Jones, was the exact opposite: an attorney who enjoys the limelight, the company of reporters, and considers the court of public opinion to be essential to making the case in a court of law.

(To learn more about this, I recommend you read my forthcomming book about the Clinton impeachment saga... I know that that was shameless self promotion, but what else is the purpose of blogging except for self promotion? BTW, I am going to have a regular feature on this blog mocking the top ten Washington/New York/politics/media world bloggs devoted to self promotion.... all right... apologies once again for my discursive nature. Now where was I?....)

To consider how Rove and Libby might defend against potential criminal charges, one can contrast their retainers' contrasting legal styles. Joseph A. Tate is a guy who likes to work behind the scenes, only talks to reporters of the credulous and compliant type (think of the equivalent of Susan Schmidts for defense attorneys), and likes to mostly engage within the four corners of a courtroom.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, is also considered by most of his peers as an able and capable white collar defense attorney. As a former federal prosecutor, he is known for counseling clients under investigation,and negotiating with the government, before their client is ever charged. (I know less about his court room skills, either good or bad, so for now I say nothing on that subject.) The secretive, furtive Libby probably hired the right guy when he hired the publicly reticent Tate. But Luskin, unlike Tate, is one not afraid of the public arena. And "client" Karl Rove is not one likely to leave all his fighting to the court room.

I am going to have a lot more to say about this in later postings.
I sooo apologize to all of my six readers of this blog.

But I have been off doing stories about the Fitzgerald investigation for the National Journal. This blog would obviously be the bestest of best blogs about anything regarding Plame, if I were continously reporting and blogging....

But, alas, in my most unfortunate absence (or pehaps fortunate absence, in that I get paid much more for writing for the National Journal), I recommend that the go-to-people/bloggers regarding all things Fitzgerald/Plame/Rove right now are Dan and Laura.

Here is a link to one of my online pieces for the National Journal, for those of my blog readers who were unaware of my stories for them. If you scroll down to the bottom, you can link to, and read, some of my other stories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

As a public service to, those like me, who cannot afford TimesSelect, as I can't, I am reprinting Maureen Dowd's column regarding Jilly Miller, in its entirety at this blog. I feel like a teenage girl downloading Napster for the first time! Anyone who reads this, please don't tell anyone at the New York Times that I have, well, done this.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company The New York Times
October 22, 2005 Saturday Late Edition - Final
SECTION: Section A; Column 6; Editorial Desk; Pg. 17 LENGTH: 754 words HEADLINE: Woman Of Mass Destruction BYLINE: By MAUREEN DOWD BODY:

I've always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy -- her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur -- have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times's seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing. At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, ''I think I should be sitting in the Times seat.'' It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers.

She more than earned her sobriquet ''Miss Run Amok.'' Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed ''incestuous amplification.''

Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists. Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he acknowledged in The Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the Plame leak case that she had kept ''drifting'' back. Why did nobody stop this drift? Judy admitted in the story that she ''got it totally wrong'' about W.M.D. ''If your sources are wrong,'' she said, ''you are wrong.'' But investigative reporting is not stenography.

The Times's story and Judy's own first-person account had the unfortunate effect of raising more questions. As Bill said yesterday in an e-mail note to the staff, Judy seemed to have ''misled'' the Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, about the extent of her involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case.

She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a ''former Hill staffer'' because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters. It isn't.

She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like ''Valerie Flame.'' Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she ''did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.''

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003.

This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project. Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury.

I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover ''the same thing I've always covered -- threats to our country.'' If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.