Sunday, July 31, 2005

Time: Administration Started Wilson Smear Work As Early As June 12th, 2003

Trouble in paradise for the Bush administration. Time magazine (via Think Progress and AmericaBlog) has a scoop in the CIA leak case that ought to bring Rovegate back to the front pages just in time to ruin the preznit's summer vacation and send the administration rats scurrying for cover in Crawford, Texas (through the use of anonymous leaks, of course!):

"As the investigation tightens into the leak of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, sources tell TIME some White House officials may have learned she was married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson weeks before his July 6, 2003, Op-Ed piece criticizing the Administration. That prospect increases the chances that White House official Karl Rove and others learned about Plame from within the Administration rather than from media contacts. Rove has told investigators he believes he learned of her directly or indirectly from reporters, according to his lawyer.

The previously undisclosed fact gathering began in the first week of June 2003 at the CIA, when its public-affairs office received an inquiry about Wilson's trip to Africa from veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. That office then contacted Plame's unit, which had sent Wilson to Niger, but stopped short of drafting an internal report. The same week, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip from Carl Ford, head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sources familiar with the memo, which disclosed Plame's relationship to Wilson, say Secretary of State Colin Powell read it in mid-June. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy then too.

When Pincus' article ran on June 12, the circle of senior officials who knew about the identity of Wilson's wife expanded. "After Pincus," a former intelligence officer says, "there was general discussion with the National Security Council and the White House and State Department and others" about Wilson's trip and its origins. A source familiar with the memo says neither Powell nor Armitage spoke to the White House about it until after July 6. John McLaughlin, then deputy head of the CIA, confirms that the White House asked about the Wilson trip, but can't remember exactly when. One thing he's sure of, says McLaughlin, who has been interviewed by prosecutors, is that "we looked into it and found the facts of it, and passed it on." --By Massimo Calabresi. With reporting by Timothy J. Burger, Michael Duffy and Viveca Novak

Remember, Rove's alibi is that he never heard of Valerie Plame until somebody in the press told him who she was (though he can't remember which member of the press this was). But Time says after the Pincus article ran on June 12th, a "general discussion with the National Security Council and the White House and State Department and others about Wilson's trip and its origins" ensued.

How could the "others" discussing the Wilson matter in June 2003 not include the preznit's main political operative, Karl Rove? How could Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney, as members of the National Security Council, not be involved in Operation Smear Wilson as well?

This could be serious trouble for the administration. If Time's report is true and special prosecutor Fitzgerald has the administration conspiring to smear Wilson as early as June 12th and then lying about it to the FBI and/or the grand jury, there are going to be a whole lot of frog-marches going in the White House come October when the grand jury ends.

And perjury just might be the least of the charges.

This Story Didn't Even Get A Mention By The New York Times Or The Washington Post

From The Associated Press:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Five U.S. soldiers were killed by roadside bombs in two separate incidents in Baghdad, the U.S. military said Sunday.

In the first attack Saturday around 1:40 p.m., a patrol hit a roadside bomb in the southern Dora neighborhood, killing a soldier from Task Force Baghdad, a statement said. Two others were wounded in that incident.

Later that evening, around 11 p.m., four Task Force Baghdad soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb exploded in southwestern Baghdad.

The names of all the soldiers killed are being withheld pending notification of next of kin...

...The violence continued Sunday when a car bomb exploded south of Baghdad, killing five civilians and wounding 10, including two policemen. The bomb targeted a police vehicle as it was passing on a main road near the town of Haswa, 30 miles south of Baghdad, said police Capt. Muthanna Khaled Ali.

A day earlier, roadside bombs killed two British contractors in southern Iraq and at least seven people in the capital. The Britons, who worked for the security firm Control Risks Group, were guarding a British consulate convoy in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. Two Iraqi children were wounded when a second device exploded five minutes later, police said."

5 dead American soldiers doesn't even merit a mention on the NY Times or the Washington Post websites. I guess the "5 dead American soldiers" story is so played out now after two+ years of war that they don't even bother covering these kinds of stories prominently anymore. The insurgent attacks have to be spectacular in Iraq and the numbers of dead and wounded high or the news media yawns at the incidents.

I'd bet the families of those 5 Americans aren't yawning. I'd also bet the families of the slaughtered Iraqi civilians aren't yawning. Nor the families of the two British contractors killed by a roadside bomb blast.

But instead of covering these stories and getting pictures and video to send home showing just what a mess it is in Iraq, the NY Times and the Washington Post both have stories about how the "lame-duck" preznit isn't so lame-duck anymore, what with the passage of CAFTA and pork-laden highway and energy bills this week. And the Washington Post goes down on Condi Rice with a "What an improvement Condi is over Colin Powell at the State Dept." story that actually made me wretch in my coffee this morning.

But no stories about the deaths in Iraq. No stories about how the Bush administration blocked the release of more Abu Ghraib photos on July 22, 2005 that a judge had ordered under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU and others which show Iraqi children being raped at Abu Ghraib as well as other incidents of torture and abuse perpetrated at the hands of U.S. personnel which Donald Rumsfeld himself called "inhumane." No stories about the impending civil war in Iraq and what's going to happen to that country after the U.S. starts pulling out in 2006.

Instead we get suck-up stories from the press about how great Condi is and how resilient the preznit is (apparently because his "stubbornness" pays off in the end.)

No wonder these motherfuckers have gotten away with starting a war for bullshit reasons, screwing up the entire "post-Mission Accomplished" phase through sheer stupidity and arrogance, leaking a covert CIA operative's name for partisan gain, ramming through Congress laws that entrench more and more power and in the hands of astronomically rich corporations and the investment class while squeezing ordinary workers for every nickel, dime, and job benefit they have, and allowing malignant corporations like ExxonMobil to run U.S environmental policy while the effects from global warming become more and more serious in the world (2005 is on pace to be the hottest year ever!!!)

But these bastards send out Frank Lunzt, Karen Hughes, Dan Bartlet and the rest of the Party Propagandists to muddy the waters on any negative story on the White House and so we get stories where the New York Times and The Washington Post perform blowjobs on the administration instead of holding them accountable for the mistakes (or crimes!!!).

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whoo-Hoo!!! Preznit's On A Roll!!!

There's much talk this morning about how the preznit is back on a roll after getting Congress to pass CAFTA, a highway bill, an energy bill, and a bill shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits this week. Plus Bush plans to recess appoint John Bolton to the UN despite the opposition of the Senate and the fact that Bolton didn't tell the truth on his Senate disclosure form.

A good week for the preznit and the Republican Party, right?

Maybe. But maybe not.

I'm not so sure all those Republicans, some of whom were on record as opposing CAFTA, will find it so easy to defend that vote come 2006 midterm election-time. Only 15 of 202 House Democrats voted for the trade agreement while 202 Republicans voted for it. Some of those Republicans, like Robin Hayes of North Carolina, voted "no" on the agreement before having their arms twisted by the Republican leadership to change their votes. Republican congressmen from the south and the midwest may have a particularly difficult time explaining why a free trade agreement so heavily supported Intel, Microsoft, and Pfizer is more important to the country than a livable wage for the working class.

The energy bill is also rife with problems. The Washington Post reports this morning that the bill has been "turned into a pinata of perks for the energy industry...The bill exempts oil and gas industries from some clean water laws, streamlines permits for oilwells and power lines on public lands, and helps the hydropower industry appeal environmental restrictions. One obscure provision would repeal a Depression-era law that has prevented consolidation of public utilities, potentially transforming the nation's electricity markets." Consumer advocates particularly fear that the repeal of the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935 will "trigger a flurry of mergers and acquisitions by banks, oil firms and even foreign countries, leading to increased rates and Enron-style frauds."

Increased energy rates and Enron-style fraud? Sounds like another victory for the preznit and the Republican party that they can proudly run on in 2006!

Now the pork-laden highway bill that was approved by the House 412-8 and contains money for every Congessional district in the nation is a winner for the preznit (even though he had threatened to veto the bill because it was loaded with so much budget-busting pork projects). But I'd bet both parties get to crow about the highway bill come 2006, so that's pretty much a wash.

And the bill shielding gun manufacturers from lawsuits? Not sure about that one. The NRA people are ecstatic about the bill's passage, of course, but they already vote pretty overwhelmingly Republican, so I guess the victory here for the preznit and his party is just bringing home the bacon for the base.

And Bolton? I am starting to get the feeling that if Bush recess appoints Bolton to the UN, Democrats will successfully argue that it's another example of Bush's arrogance, contempt for the opposition, and inability to work with others. Even Republicans like Trent Lott and Pat Roberts are on record saying a recess appointment is a bad idea. In addition, recess appointing Bolton may throw a wrench into the John Roberts Supreme Court proceedings. Democrats are much more likely to filibuster Roberts if Bush bypasses them on Bolton and a few Republicans may also be sympthetic to that cause.

So a good week for the preznit and the Republican Party? Perhaps. But remember, sometimes when you get what you wish for - like CAFTA, an energy bill that allows mergers and acquisitions in the industry and almost certainly means higher energy rates in the future, and a recess appointment of John Bolton to the UN - you rue your "victories" later on down the line.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Bush's Approval Rating Falls to 44% In Gallup Poll: Dems Show Positive Momentum

From Gallup:

"PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds a decline in George W. Bush's job approval rating. After standing at 49% approval in the prior two CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls conducted this month, now just 44% of Americans say they approve of Bush, a new low mark for the president. The poll also shows a drop in Bush's favorable rating to 48%, which is the first time it has dropped below 50% since Gallup began tracking this opinion in 1999. Four in 10 Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, which is essentially unchanged from early July. The poll shows continued positive momentum for the Democratic Party in terms of national party identification and ratings of the two major political parties, both of which were evident before the drop in Bush approval occurred.

The July 25-28 Gallup Poll finds 44% of Americans approving and 51% disapproving of the job Bush is doing as president. Bush's prior low approval rating was 45%, which occurred once in March and once again in June of this year. ..

...Even while Bush's ratings are falling, other core Gallup ratings show more stability.

* For example, 40% of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, and 58% are dissatisfied. In early July, 42% were satisfied and 57% dissatisfied.

* Ratings of the national economy also show little change. In early July, 36% said economic conditions were excellent or good and 18% said poor. Thirty-five percent said the economy was getting better and 54% said worse. Now, 32% rate the economy as excellent or good (23% as poor) and 35% say it is getting better and 53% say getting worse.

* While the Iraq war could be responsible the general descent into the mid-to-high 40% approval range for Bush over the last two years, there has been little change in the public's views on Iraq in recent polls to suggest it is behind Bush's current rating. The July 22-24 poll showed fewer Americans (46%) calling the war in Iraq "a mistake" than did so in June (53%).

Democrats Faring Better

Recent Gallup Polls have shown growing positive momentum for the Democratic Party, even while Bush's ratings were somewhat higher. For example, the July 22-24 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 52% of Americans rating the Democratic Party favorably, while just 46% give a favorable rating to the Republican Party. When the question was last asked in April, each party was rated favorably by 50% of Americans.

Additionally, Gallup has observed a consistent edge for the Democrats in terms of national party identification in its recent polls. In the current poll, 33% say they are Democrats, 28% Republicans, and 37% independents. This is the fourth consecutive poll in which Democrats have outnumbered Republicans in Gallup Polls...

...For comparison's sake, the party identification averages were evenly divided in Gallup Polls conducted in the first half of 2005 (34% Republican and 33% Democratic) and in all of 2004 (34% Republican and 34% Democratic). "

Huh. Bush gets his lowest Gallup poll approval rating ever while Democrats are rising in popularity and identification. With all the carping this week about the preznit's victories on CAFTA, the highway bill, the energy bill, and his Supreme Court nominee, I was under the impression Bush had his "mandate" back.

But I guess not.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Senator Pat Roberts: Ultimate White House Pawn

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, doesn't want to hold hearings into whether the Bush administration manipulated pre-war Iraq intelligence because it would embarrass the preznit. Gee, what a surprise! The Boston Globe has the story:

"WASHINGTON -- For eight months, the Senate Intelligence Committee has made little effort to pursue its long-promised probe into whether the Bush administration intentionally misconstrued intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war -- an investigation that would have delved into whether White House aides tried to put pressure on CIA analysts.

The revelation that Karl Rove, a White House political adviser, leaked information about a CIA operative to discredit her husband's complaints about President Bush's use of intelligence has focused new attention on the relationship between the White House and CIA. But the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has shown no signs of moving ahead with its investigation.

Pat Roberts, chairman of the committee, vowed last year that soon after the presidential election was over, his panel would examine whether Bush or his top aides misled the public about prewar intelligence, or pressured CIA agents to make a stronger case for invading Iraq. But since then, the Intelligence Committee has made no measurable progress on the investigation. Instead, Roberts has offered vague public promises of picking up the key pieces of the probe at some point but has warned that other more pressing matters must be dealt with first...

...The failure of the committee to act has taken on renewed importance in recent weeks, as the criminal investigation of an administration leak that revealed the identity of undercover operative Valerie Plame Wilson has widened to implicate Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. On Monday, Democrats called for a special congressional probe into the leak, including Rove's and Libby's conversations with reporters.

Libby was particularly involved in helping the administration make a case to topple Saddam Hussein. He coordinated Cheney's efforts to seek out information directly from CIA analysts and was part of a group of administration neoconservatives that relied heavily on information provided by Ahmed Chalabi, who was once Washington's choice to replace Hussein, and the Iraqi National Congress.

Though an investigation of the uses of prewar intelligence would not cover the leaking of Plame Wilson's name -- that occurred after the invasion of Iraq -- it could shed light on whether members of the administration took other actions to suppress or discredit opposing views.

Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said in February that the committee's investigation of the administration's use of intelligence is 'on the back burner,' and said in April that other issues have more urgent claims on the committee's attention.

In an interview last week, Roberts said portions of the promised investigation have proceeded, including an examination of intelligence that led the Bush administration to conclude that Iraq would be relatively easy to handle after Hussein was ousted from power.

But Roberts added that committee members remain at odds over how to judge public prewar statements made by members of the Bush administration and Congress. Many of the more than 400 such statements compiled by the committee are now known to have been based on faulty intelligence, and that could explain why the statements turned out to be misleading, Roberts said.

Some Democrats merely want to call attention to the statements to embarrass Bush and his top aides, Roberts said, and he sees no use in treading that ground when the committee could better concentrate its resources on future threats.

''So what do you do with that?' Roberts asked. ''What have we gained other than the political objective of saying this administration issued the intelligence? Look in the front window. Don't look in the back and pick off somebody's comment that some senator or somebody in the administration said and say, 'Gee, had that person known, he wouldn't have said that.'

But Rockefeller and other Democrats say that differing opinions on how to handle public statements is not a legitimate reason to hold up the investigation. Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the fact that there has been no investigation of the misuse of intelligence means US policy may still be based on mistaken conclusions.

''A year and a half later, there's still no report, no conclusions, no accountability for the mistakes, and no way to be sure they won't be repeated,' said Kerry. ''This is just further evidence of a pattern by this White House and the Republicans in Congress to stop at nothing to discredit their critics and silence the tough questions before they get asked.'

The dispute over the committee's investigation goes back to last June, when it completed a report criticizing the intelligence gathering and analysis of the CIA and other agencies, citing errors that contributed to the mistaken belief by top US government officials that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

But over the objections of Democrats, the committee declined to address questions of how Bush and his top aides used the intelligence. Roberts said those questions would be answered in a second phase of the committee's investigation, to begin shortly after the election to avoid the appearance of political motives in the investigation. That investigation, however, has not been pursued.

Now the revelations of Rove's and Libby's roles in leaking information about Plame Wilson's identity -- the subject of a federal criminal probe -- has raised the possibility that officials sought to exact retribution against someone who openly criticized intelligence that was a crucial underpinning of the case for war."

Yeah, Roberts is too busy to look into whether the Bush administration misled the nation about prewar intelligence or hounded the CIA into making a stronger case for invading Iraq. You see, Roberts has to look into whether the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case, Patrick Fitzgerald, is politically motivated to get Bush.

Never mind that Fitzgerald was apppointed by Bush to his position as US attorney in Chicago. Never mind that Fitzgerald has gone after both Republicans and Democrats in the Windy City and has lately incurred the wrath of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for having the temerity to indict officials inside of Daley's administration. Never mind that Fitzgerald has registered as an "Independent" and has taken special care to appear completely apolitical in his role as prosecutor.

Never mind all that. He's going after the preznit's top aides on possible treason, perjury, obstruction, and conspiracy charges and Roberts cannot have his preznit embarrassed. So Pat Roberts, water carrier for the White House, is going to take on Patrick Fitzgerald.

Good luck, Senator Roberts. Knowing just a little about Patrick Fitzgerald, I suspect the special prosecutor eats little fucking spinheads like you for dinner. But if you want to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars looking into why Fitzgerald is investigating the CIA leak case instead of looking into why the Bush administration pressured the CIA to support the Iraq war on bullshit intelligence, so be it.

Remember, Senator Roberts, you're not going to run the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence forever. And when somebody from the other party takes over with subpoena power, he or she can look into whether the Bushies manipulated prewar intelligence for political reasons and whether any Senate Republicans helped.

And then the fun begins and the spin ends.

Independent Panel: Bush Not Ready For Postwar Iraq

From the "No Fucking Kidding" File (Via the Associated Press):

"WASHINGTON -- An independent panel headed by two former U.S. national security advisers said Wednesday that chaos in Iraq was due in part to inadequate postwar planning.

Planning for reconstruction should match the serious planning that goes into making war, said the panel headed by Samuel Berger and Brent Scowcroft. Berger was national security adviser to Democratic President Clinton. Scowcroft held the same post under Republican Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush but has been critical of the current president's Iraq and Mideast policies.

'A dramatic military victory has been overshadowed by chaos and bloodshed in the streets of Baghdad, difficulty in establishing security or providing essential services, and a deadly insurgency,' the report said.

'The costs, human, military and economic, are high and continue to mount,' said the report, which was sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent foreign policy group.

Two years after a stunning three-week march on Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi military forces have been unable to secure and rebuild the country, and reconstruction has fallen victim to a lack of security, the report said...

...The report said the critical miscalculation of Iraq war-planning was the conclusion that reconstruction would not require more troops than the invasion itself.

Not only are more troops needed but they should be trained for postwar duty, the task force said.

In Iraq, the task force said, postwar requirements did not get enough attention, and there were misjudgments, as well. This, the report said, "left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance and economic demands" after the war.

And this, in turn, undermined U.S. foreign policy and gave an early push to the insurgency in Iraq, the task force said.

In Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, the report said, the postwar period has been marked by inefficient operations and billions of dollars of wasted resources."

In response to the report, Senator Pat Roberts is opening an investigation into the Council on Foreign Relations to see if their relations "really qualify as being, you know, foreign" while RNC Chairman/confirmed bachelor/Bush administration apologist Ken Mehlman said today that both Sandy Berger and Brent Scowcroft are traitors to the nation who are aiding and abetting the enemy by criticizing Our Great Leader in his "crusade on terror".

Isn't it great living in George W.'s America?

POSTSCRIPT: I made up the quotations from Pat Roberts and Ken Mehlman. One reader of this blog thought they were real. The problem is, many of the administration apologists and/or Republican Party members say so many outrageous things that even the craziest sounds real. Think Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who recently suggested the United States should bomb Islam's holy sites if the U.S. is attacked again by terrorists. You wouldn't think that's a real quotation - but it is. So even stupid quotations like the ones I made up sound real in this day and age.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

CIA Spokesman: Valerie Plame Was Covert

Many of the Republican apparatchiks who appear on the cable news and Sunday morning talk shows, led by RNC chairman/confirmed bachelor/Rovian protege Ken Mehlman, try to downplay the damage done in the Plame leak case by arguing that no crime was committed because Valerie Plame wasn't really a "covert" agent. Remember, under the Intelligence Identity Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert CIA operative to someone without a security clearance. But if Plame wasn't really "covert," as the Bush administration's apologists have argued, then no crime was committed and we can all continue happily with the business of moving America forward into the 19th century.

The culmination of this "not covert" argument came Sunday when Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition that Valerie Plame's covert status was problematic because "driving back and forth to the CIA headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert." Roberts, through his spokesperson, later went on to say that he would hold hearings into "the intelligence community's use of covert protections for CIA agents and others involved in secret activities" to see if perhaps the CIA is too generous in handing out a "covert" status to its employees. Roberts' spokesperson also said that Roberts will "review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years."

On TPMcafe, former CIA agent (and Republican) Larry Johnson exposed the absurdity of Robert's argument that Plame couldn't be considered covert because she showed up to work at CIA headquarters every day:

"I guess Senator Pat Roberts believes that if he repeats a lie long enough it eventually becomes true. While it is one thing for a political bag carrier like Ken Mehlman to be woefully ignorant about CIA practices and procedures, it is downright alarming that Senator Roberts can be so misinformed. Today, while appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Roberts repeated the specious claim that Valerie Plame could not be undercover because she went to work everyday at CIA Headquarters.

Folks, there is no excuse for this level of incompetence. There are thousands of undercover CIA employees who drive through the three gates at CIA Headquarters in McLean, Virginia everyday. And this Senator from Kansas who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee has the audacity to blame CIA for intelligence failures? How can he recognize failures when he does not even understand the very simple basics about people who work undercover at CIA. He should spend more time reading up on the CIA and less time memorizing Ken Mehlman talking points."

Today, we get more evidence that Valerie Plame was indeed considered a "covert" agent by the CIA. In a front page article in The Washington Post, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow says that he testified before the grand jury last year that he spoke with journalist Robert Novak in the days before Novak outed Plame as a covert CIA operative in a column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Harlow says he "warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about her, her name should not be revealed." Harlow then checked Plame's status after his discussion with Novak and "confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified."

We have two CIA employees, including the former CIA spokesman, saying Plame was "covert" while Pat Roberts, Ken Mehlman, David Brooks, Bill Safire, Tucker Carlson, Congressman Peter King (R-NY), and other administration apologists argue that she wasn't "covert enough". Now let's ask a simple question: what if a Clinton administration official had revealed Plame's identity to a journalist as political payback instead of Bush administration officials committing this act? What would Pat Roberts, Ken Mehlman, David Brooks, Bill Safire, Tucker Carlson, Peter King and the rest be saying?

Simple: they would be saying that people in the Clinton administration had placed partisan politics above national security and somebody needed to be held accountable for it. And they would be right. Just as the people who today demand that the senior administration officials responsible for the leaking of Plame's name for partisan gain be held accountable for placing politics above national security are right.

Remember, it is not for Pat Roberts, Ken Mehlman, David Brooks, Bill Safire, Tucker Carlson, Peter King or any other Bush administration apologist to decide who gets "covert" CIA status. Only the CIA decides that.

POSTSCRIPT: As Josh Marshall has noted at, Pat Roberts wouldn't allow the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to look into the origins of the Niger document forgeries which allowed the Bush administration to argue in the first place that Saddam was attempting to buy uranium from Niger. Roberts' reasoning was thus: the FBI was looking into the matter and Roberts didn't want to interfere with an ongoing investigation. Yet now Roberts is happy to probe Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the Plame leak case while it is still ongoing! Obviously Roberts received his orders from the White House that Fitzgerald's investigation must be discredited in case Fitzgerald comes down with indictments of senior officials like Rove and Libby. So Roberts will attempt to paint Fitzgerald's investigation as political hackery, just the way the administration (and Roberts in the SSCI report on the Niger controversy) attempted to discredit Ambassador Joe Wilson as a political partisan who got his job through nepotism. As Craig Crawford told Keith Olbermann on Countdown

"This is the politics of distraction. If you don't want to meet the merits of a charge, then just attack somebody else. It's what's happened with this effort to discredit Joe Wilson. It's what got them into trouble in the first place, and here they are doing it again. But if you spot the critics of Joe Wilson everything they want to say about him and his wife, it doesn't change the fact that the CIA basically launched an investigation of the White House for leaking an undercover agent's identity. None of that changes no matter what you say about Joe Wilson." (MSNBC Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 7/25)

And since the Bush administration apologists can't meet the merits of the charges against Rove, Libby, et al., they attack and attack and attack. But none of that will matter if Fitzgerald comes down with indictments.

Or convictions.

From The "Americans Are Stupid" File


"• For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — the central justification given for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003 after stores of the weapons weren't found.

• By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won't be able to establish a stable democratic government in Iraq, similar to the results when the question was asked in April 2004.

• About one-third, 32%, say the United States can't win the war in Iraq. Another 21% say the United States could win the war, but they don't think it will. Just 43% predict a victory.

Still, on the question designed to test fundamental attitudes toward the war — was it a mistake to send U.S. troops? — the public's view has rebounded. By 53%-46%, those surveyed say it wasn't a mistake, the strongest support for the war since just after the Iraqi elections in January."

Okay, let me get this straight - a majority of Americans believe Bush misled us into a war that we either can't or won't win, yet a majority of Americans also say it wasn't a mistake to start the war in the first place.

Who are these fucking people? How stupid are they? You mean to say someone conned you into something you can't win and you still think the con was a good idea?

Jesus fucking Christ, no wonder Bush was able to bamboozle the public in two elections. Americans are possibly the dumbest fucking people on the face of the earth. Maybe if people stopped watching so much fucking "reality" televison and started to read something other than USA Today, they wouldn't be so easily manipulated by Bush, Cheney, Rove and the rest of the Republican apparatchiks!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Senator Pat Roberts: Idiot Or Liar?

Senator Pat Roberts told Wolf "That's A Serious Allegation" Blitzer yesterday on CNN's Late Edition that Valerie Plame couldn't be a "covert" agent because she "drives back and forth to CIA headquarters" and "I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert."

Former CIA agent Larry Johnson, a colleague of Valerie Plame's and a Republican, tells us that "there are thousands of undercover CIA employees who drive through the three gates at CIA headquarters in McClean, Virginia everyday." Now how is it that Senator Pat Roberts, who is after all the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, doesn't know that even top secret "covert" agents train and/or work out of CIA headquarters in Virginia? Amazing. Perhaps Senator Roberts is too stupid to be chairman of such an important committee?

Or is Senator Roberts just trying to muddy the waters for his White House masters on the Plame case? Remember, it is not for either the White House or Pat Roberts to decide if Valerie Plame was covert or not. It is also not for Robert Novak, David Brooks, or Ken Mehlman to decide that designation either.

It is for the CIA to decide whether Plame was covert or not and they did indeed designate her a "covert agent" when they referred the Plame leak case to the Department of Justice.

So Pat Roberts and the rest of the apparatchiks for the White House need to shut the fuck up about Plame not being covert and start asking really important questions - like why the White House put its own political interests ahead of national security and why most of the Republican Party seems to be willing to provide excuses and bullshit rationales for Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and other members of the Bush administration who have certainly acted unethically and may in fact have broken obstruction, perjury, conspiracy, and/or classified disclosure laws?

POSTSCRIPT: Roberts, who promised a post-election investigation into the possible political manipulation of pre-war intelligence, has since decided there isn't sufficient time to hold such an investigation. Roberts is going to hold an investigation into whether the CIA hands out to many "covert" designations to its employees however. That's Pat Roberts, for you - purveyor of the No Bush Administration Political Need Left Behind Act (2001-2008).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wait - I Thought We Had "Mostly Eliminated" The Ability Of Iraqi Insurgents To Conduct Sustained, High-Intensity Attacks?

From The New York Times:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 23 - They just keep getting stronger.

Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.

After concentrating their efforts for two and a half years on driving out the 138,000-plus American troops, the insurgents appear to be shifting their focus to the political and sectarian polarization of the country - apparently hoping to ignite a civil war - and to the isolation of the Iraqi government abroad.

And the insurgents are choosing their targets with greater precision, and executing and dramatizing their attacks with more sophistication than they have in the past.

American commanders say the number of attacks against American and Iraqi forces has held steady over the last year, averaging about 65 a day.

But the Americans concede the growing sophistication of insurgent attacks and the insurgents' ability to replenish their ranks as fast as they are killed.

'We are capturing or killing a lot of insurgents,' said a senior Army intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make his assessments public. 'But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another insurgent ready to step up and take charge.'

At the same time, the Americans acknowledge that they are no closer to understanding the inner workings of the insurgency or stemming the flow of foreign fighters, who are believed to be conducting a vast majority of suicide attacks. The insurgency, believed to be an unlikely mix of Baath Party die-hards and Islamic militants, has largely eluded the understanding of American intelligence officers since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government 27 months ago.

The danger is that the violence could overwhelm the intensive American-backed efforts now under way to draw Iraq's Sunni Arabs into the political mainstream, leaving the community more embittered than ever and setting the stage for even more violence and possibly civil war.

And then, just in case you think the New York Times is highlighting the "bad news" in Iraq while ignoring the "good", here's some more recent bad news that shows just how dangerous and chaotic Iraq is right now:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide attacker slammed a truck loaded with explosives into concrete barriers outside a Baghdad police station Sunday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 30, police said.

The attacker detonated his charge at the Rashad police station in the eastern neighborhood of Mashtal around 2:50 p.m., said Capt. Mahir Abdul Satar.

Six cars, including two police cars, were seen burning and several nearby shops were damaged, police officials said. The blast left a giant, blackened crater at the scene.

Body parts lay scattered around the area as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze and rescue workers carried away victims on stretchers.

Insurgents have regularly targeted Iraq's police and security forces in attempts to further destabilize the country, which has been struggling to put together a new constitution and broad-based government."

The political situation in Iraq doesn't seem to be doing any better than the security situation:

"Members of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's bloc threatened Sunday to walk out of the constitutional drafting committee in support of a Sunni group that boycotted the process.

Committee member Adnan al-Janabi, who also is part of secular leader Allawi's eight-member bloc, criticized the way the commission dealt with Sunni members' decision to suspend their participation in drafting the new charter.

'Their demands and suspension of membership should have been studied and taken in a way that reassures them and brings them to participate in the draft constitution that we want to be agreed upon by all Iraqis,' he said.

Al-Janabi, who also is a spokesman for Allawi's group, said the bloc's continued participation remains in question.

'Our continuation in the committee drafting the constitution has become dependent on getting clarifications to what we have asked earlier,' al-Janabi said.

The mixed makeup of the committee was deemed crucial for drafting a constitution acceptable to all of Iraq's ethnic and religious communities, a key to any political exit from the unremitting violence and the need for American troops to remain in Iraq.

If Allawi's secular group joins the Sunnis in pulling out of the process, it raises the concern that a committee already dominated by Shiite religious parties and ethnic Kurds would be left in control of drafting the charter.

Al-Janabi also expressed anger over commission chairman Sheik Humam Hammoudi's announcement that a draft would be ready within days, saying it was 'a draft that we were not consulted about and I don't know how it was written or who wrote it.'

On Thursday, the 12 remaining Sunni members of the commission suspended their participation to protest the assassination of Sunni member Mijbil Issa and adviser Dhamim Hussein al-Obeidi by unknown gunmen. Two of the original 15 Sunni members resigned earlier after insurgents threatened them.

The Sunni members demanded an international investigation into the killings, better security and a greater Sunni role in deliberations.

On Sunday, no Sunni members showed up at a planned constitutional meeting even though the group indicated a day earlier it was considering a possible return.

Shiite member Bahaa al-Araji said no decision will be taken 'without the presence of the brothers (Sunnis) unless there is a reason for the absence. Therefore, the committee will be committed to handing over the draft at the time agreed upon.'

The threatened walkout by Allawi's group is the latest hurdle in the commission's goal of getting a constitution drafted and approved by the assembly Aug. 15. That charter then would be scheduled for a public referendum two months later.

Voters in only three of Iraq's 18 provinces can scuttle the constitution if they reject it by two-thirds majority in the October referendum."

If you are reading the news reports from the Associated Press and The New York Times, it seems the only thing that has been "mostly eliminated" in Iraq these days is any chance of success. But the administration repeatedly hums the line that "times are tough but we're making progress" and points to how more people in Iraq are using cell phones and the Internet now than during Saddam's reign as signs that life is better in post-Saddam Iraq. And yet on average, 800 Iraqis a month are dying in suicide bomb incidents or other insurgent attacks. This is the progress? This is better?

Recent polls show that the administration's "progress" line is growing stale with the American people, but most Americans want to keep troops in Iraq until the "mission is completed".
I want to keep troops in Iraq too because I think to completely pull out now would create a horrible bloodbath and such grave political instability that the current Iraqi government wouldn't survive. But how long is it going to take us to "complete the mission" in Iraq to where we can start to bring the troops home?

The current political and security situation tells me that whatever "progress" we have made in Iraq is becoming "regress". It is increasingly obvious that the Bush administration has so fucked up the post-war phase in Iraq that the mission can never be completed now. I don't know when a majority of Americans are going to come to similiar decisions, but it won't be long. Within six months or a year, if the political and security situations in Iraq don't improve, I think majorities of Americans are going to start to say "Bring 'em home."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Operation "Get Rovegate Off the Front Pages" Has Not Worked

Preznit Bush moved up the announcement of his Supreme Court nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor to try and get the media off the Rovegate story. Unfortunately for Preznit Bush (and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby), there have been no less than 6 major Rovegate stories in mainstream media outlets like Bloomberg News, the Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal since the Supreme Court announcement.
Here are today's Rovegate articles. From The LA Times:

"WASHINGTON — The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from determining whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.

Differences have arisen in witnesses' statements to federal agents and a grand jury about how the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, was leaked to the press two years ago

According to lawyers familiar with the case, investigators are comparing statements by two top White House aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, with testimony from reporters who have acknowledged talking to the officials.

Although no one has suggested that the investigation into who leaked Plame's name has been shelved, the intensity of the inquiry into possible perjury charges has increased, according to one lawyer familiar with events who spoke on condition that he not be identified.

The investigation focused initially on whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, in a campaign to discredit Wilson after he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times criticizing the Bush administration's grounds for going to war in Iraq.

The sources said prosecutors were comparing the various statements to the FBI and the grand jury by Rove, who is a White House deputy chief of staff and President Bush's chief political strategist. In Rove's first interview with the FBI, he did not mention a telephone conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, according to lawyers involved in the case. Cooper has since said that he called Rove specifically to discuss the matter.

Rove has been interviewed twice by the FBI and has made three appearances before the grand jury, according to lawyers familiar with the case."

And from The Washington Post:

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been reviewing over the past several months discrepancies and gaps in witness testimony in his investigation of the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to lawyers in the case and witness statements.

Fitzgerald has spent considerable time since the summer of 2004 looking at possible conflicts between what White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury and investigators, and the accounts of reporters who talked with the two men, according to various sources in the case.

Libby has testified that he learned about Plame from NBC correspondent Tim Russert, according to a source who spoke with The Washington Post some months ago. Russert said in a statement last year that he told the prosecutor that "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003.

Prosecutors have also probed Rove's testimony about his telephone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the crucial days before Plame's name was revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak.

Rove has testified thathe and Cooper talked about welfare reform foremost and turned to the topic of Plame only near the end, lawyers involved in the case said. But Cooper, writing about his testimony in the most recent issue of Time, said he "can't find any record of talking about" welfare reform. "I don't recall doing so," Cooper wrote.

Both Libby's attorney and Rove's attorney declined to comment yesterday, as did Fitzgerald's office. The possible conflicts in the accounts given by Russert and Libby were first reported yesterday by Bloomberg News.

Fitzgerald's review of apparent discrepancies are further evidence that his investigation has ranged beyond his original mission to determine if someone broke the law by knowingly revealing the identity of a covert operative...

...Lawyers involved in the case said there are now indications that Fitzgerald did not initially know or suspect that Rove was Cooper's primary source for the reporter's information about Plame. That raises questions about how much Rove disclosed when first questioned in the inquiry or how closely he was initially queried about his contacts with reporters. Rove has testified before a grand jury and been questioned by FBI agents on at least five occasions over the past two years.

Two lawyers involved in the case say that although Fitzgerald used phone logs to determine some contacts between officials and reporters, they believe there is no phone record of Cooper's now-famous call to Rove in the days before Novak's column appeared. That is because Cooper called the White House switchboard and was reconnected to Rove's office, sources said.

Also, when first questioned in the days after Plame's name appeared in the press, Rove left the impression with top White House aides that he had talked about her only with Novak, according to a source familiar with information provided to investigators.

Initially, Fitzgerald appeared focused on the theory that Libby had leaked Plame's identity, according to lawyers involved in the case. He had interviewed three other reporters about their conversations with Libby, but all three indicated he either did not discuss Plame or did not reveal her identity...

...Cooper then told the grand jury that Rove was the first administration official to tip him off that Plame worked for the CIA. It is not clear whether Rove's tip violated the law, and his attorney has said he was only trying to warn Cooper off of information being peddled by Wilson.

Rove has at some point testified that he passed on information about Plame to Cooper, according to two lawyers involved in the case. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say when Rove gave this testimony.

But a source close to Rove said the senior adviser volunteered the information: "It appeared they were not aware of the conversation."

The prosecutors have appeared keen to see if they can fill in some gaps in Rove's memory about how he learned about Plame, and they have repeatedly asked witnesses if Rove told them how he knew about Plame. Rove testified early in the investigation that his information about Plame came from Novak, his attorney said. Rove testified he also may have heard about her from another reporter or administration official who had heard it from a reporter, but he could not recall the second source of his information, his attorney said.

Perjury and obstrcution cases. Discrepancies in testimony. Less than forthcoming in initial interviews with the FBI. Potential frog-marching opportunities abound in the case.

Hmm. No wonder "Operation Get Rovegate Off The Front Pages" hasn't worked.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Getting Closer To Frog-Marching Time

Three different mainstream media sources are reporting three different Rovegate stories tonight that are potentially damaging to the White House.

First, Bloomberg News suggests that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby perjured themselves before the grand jury investigating the Plame leak:

"July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people 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 Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.

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, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

These discrepancies may be important because Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a covert intelligence agent.

Next, The New York Times suggests that Rove and Libby may have conspired on some matters in the Plame case (even though much of the information in the article appears to have been leaked by Rove's people):

"WASHINGTON, July 21 - At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative's identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.

The two issues had become inextricably linked because Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the unmasked C.I.A. officer, had questioned Mr. Bush's assertion, prompting a damage-control effort by the White House that included challenging Mr. Wilson's standing and his credentials. A federal grand jury investigation is under way by a special counsel to determine whether someone illegally leaked the officer's identity and possibly into whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred during the inquiry.

People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.

They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.

At the same time, they were grappling with the fallout from an Op-Ed article on July 6, 2003, in The New York Times by Mr. Wilson, a former diplomat, in which he criticized the way the administration had used intelligence to support the claim in Mr. Bush's speech.

The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the Tenet statement during this intense period has not been previously disclosed. People who have been briefed on the case discussed this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address. Those people who have been briefed requested anonymity because prosecutors have asked them not to discuss matters under investigation.

The special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has been examining this period of time to determine whether the officials' work on the Tenet statement led in some way to the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity to Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist, according to the people who have been briefed.

It is not clear what information Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby might have collected about Ms. Wilson as they worked on the Tenet statement. Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak. Mr. Libby has declined to discuss the matter.

The effort was striking because to an unusual degree, the circle of officials involved included those from the White House's political and national security operations, which are often separately run. Both arms were drawn into the effort to defend the administration during the period."

The Times suggests that more Bush administration officials may be subjects of Fitzgerald's investigation than just Rove and Libby:

In another indication of how wide a net investigators have cast in the case, Karen Hughes, a former top communications aide to Mr. Bush, and Robert Joseph, who was then the National Security Council's expert on weapons proliferation, have both told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they were interviewed by the special prosecutor.

Ms. Hughes is to have her confirmation hearing on Friday on her nomination to lead the State Department's public diplomacy operation. Mr. Joseph was recently confirmed as under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As part of their confirmation proceedings, both had to fill out questionnaires listing any legal matters they had become involved in.

The Times article also opens the possibilityAri Fleischer may have perjured himself before the grand jury when asked about the infamous State Department memo that identified Valerie Plame Wilson by name:

Among those asked if he had seen the memo was Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, who was on Air Force One with Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell during the Africa trip. Mr. Fleischer told the grand jury that he never saw the document, a person familiar with the testimony said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the prosecutor's admonitions about not disclosing what is said to the grand jury.

Mr. Fleischer's role has been scrutinized by investigators, in part because his telephone log showed a call on the day after Mr. Wilson's article appeared from Mr. Novak, the columnist who, on July 14, 2003, was the first to report Ms. Wilson's identity.

In his column, Mr. Novak referred to her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, which she had used when first employed by the C.I.A. Mr. Fleischer has told the grand jury that he did not return Mr. Novak's call, a person familiar with the testimony said.

If you compare this account of Fleischer's doings with a July 18, 2005 story run by Bloomberg where a "former administration official who was on the trip" (i.e., Colin Powell) says Fleischer was seen "perusing the memo on Wilson and his wife," you start to get the idea that Fleischer may have lied when he told prosecutors and/or the grand jury that he never saw the State Dept. memo.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal (Via Countdown With Keith Olbermann/AmericaBlog) is set to report tomorrow that the State Dept. memo that identified Ms. Plame by name was marked "Top Secret - No Foreign," meaning any government agent who saw the memo would know that information contained therein, including Ms. Plame's name and identity, should not be divulged to anyone without a security clearance.

Not a good news day tomorrow for the preznit and his band of merry men. John Arivosis at AmericaBlog sums up the current state of Rovegate quite nicely:

"Think about this, folks. We've got the Washington Post, the New York Times, Bloomberg and, of all publications, the friggin' Wall Street Journal all competing to be THE news service that breaks the true story of what the White House did with regards to RoveGate. That's pretty amazing, and it spells big trouble for moose and squirrel at the White House.

The mainstream media gets it. They get this story. They get why it's important. And now, they want it - bad. And when you get four top news services (and probably more) all fighting tooth and nail to scoop each other on a major story, that's serious trouble for the guys on the receiving end of that story.

Bush is in serious trouble."

Oh, yes he is...and so's Rove, Libby, Flesicher, and possibly a few other Bush administration officials like Karen Hughes and Stephen Hadley. The Supreme Court diversion got the Bushies approximately a 24 hour moratorium in Rovegate coverage. But ever since the Washington Post published the article about the State Dept. memo last night, news has been breaking fast in the Rovegate case.

Somebody should call Newsweek's Howard "Always Wrong" Fineman and ask him how brilliant he thinks Bush is today.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

State Dept. Memo Marked Plame's Identity "Secret"

The plausible deniability angle for senior Bush administration officials involved in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case is getting smaller and smaller. The Washington Post has the story:

"A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the 'secret' level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as 'secret' the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.

The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.

Wilson has said his wife's identity was revealed to retaliate against him for accusing the Bush administration of 'twisting' intelligence to justify the Iraq war. In a July 6 opinion piece in the New York Times and in an interview with The Washington Post, he cited a secret mission he conducted in February 2002 for the CIA, when he determined there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium for a nuclear weapons program in the African nation of Niger.

White House officials discussed Wilson's wife's CIA connection in telling at least two reporters that she helped arrange his trip, according to one of the reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, and a lawyer familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have shown interest in the memo, especially when they were questioning White House officials during the early days of the investigation, people familiar with the probe said."

Okay, three points here:

1. Anybody who read or saw the memo should have known Plame's identity was "secret". According to The Wall Street Journal, the federal government has three designations for sensitive material: "top secret," "secret," and "confidential" - all indicating various levels of 'damage' to national security." The memo - and everything in it - was designated the second level - "secret."

2. The memo shows that the State Department didn't believe the Bush administration's assertions that Saddam had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences were devoted to Ms. Wilson. Yet the Bushies conveniently ignored the contents devoted to showing why the State Dept. believed the Saddam/Niger uranium tie was bullshit and focused on the two sentences devoted to Ms. Wilson.

3. The current and former government officials who divulged the "secret" designation of the memo to the Washington Post seem to be sending a message to other current and former Bush administration officials. I'm guessing Colin Powell is one of the "former" government officials and the message he seems to be sending to Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and perhaps even the preznit and the vice preznit, is - don't try blaming this Plame mess on me. I know where the bodies are buried and I can hurt you more than you can hurt me.

Finally, this story also shows that the administration's apologists, led by RNC chairman/confirmed bachelor Ken Mehlman, are way off base when they assert that the Plame leak was not a crime because Valerie Plame wasn't really a covert agent. This memo clearly shows that her identity should have been kept "secret". Many of the apologists have tried to minimize the story by saying Plame was nothing but a partisan Democrat out to get the administration. But I think the memo clearly puts that lie to rest.

And secret means not confirming the identity to Robert Novak or leaking it to Matt Cooper.

Governator More Unpopular Than Ever

Poor Arnold...his poll numbers keep dropping and dropping and dropping. And that's before Californians learned that he had accepted a job with muscle magazines for $13 million dollars two days before he was sworn is as governor. Reuters has the story:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating dropped to a new low even before a controversy developed about his hefty side income from fitness magazines, according to a poll released on Thursday.

Only 34 percent of adult Californians approve of the job Schwarzenegger is doing as governor, compared with 51 percent who disapprove, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The institute's poll mirrors sinking numbers in a Field Poll last month among registered voters which found approval dropped to 37 percent from 55 percent in February.

"Californians don't feel that the state is headed in the right direction," said Mark Baldassare, research director of the nonpartisan institute, adding that Schwarzenegger has had difficulty convincing Californians to support his proposals.

A year before, the institute found 57 percent of Californians approved of Schwarzenegger's job as governor and 29 percent disapproved...

...Reuters reported on July 13 that the publisher of "Flex" and "Muscle & Fitness" would pay Schwarzenegger more than $13 million over five years to serve as an executive editor. He ended the arrangement two days later.

The former Mr. Olympia had announced the side job last year but not detailed compensation, which opponents say is a conflict of interest because he has since vetoed a bill that would have regulated diet supplements. Manufacturers of the supplements advertise in the fitness magazines.

Democrats have criticized the celebrity Republican governor at a time he had hoped to win support for several ballot measures a special election he called for November.

The chairman of the state Democratic Party filed a complaint against Schwarzenegger on Tuesday with the state's political watchdog agency and raised the possibility the dispute over outside income could result in jail time for Schwarzenegger.

Remember when the governator told us he "kicks special interests butts!!!"? Turns out the governator only kicks special interests butts if the special interest is a nurses, teachers, police, or firefighters union. If the special interest is a muscle magazine conglomerate, a diet supplement maker, or PepsiCo, he kisses their butts...and takes their money.

Looks like Cailifornians have caught on to the fact that Arnold is full of shit, however. His numbers are fast approaching Gray Davis territory. Which means Arnold may be terminated next election. And the special election he called for this November isn't looking so good for him either.

Oh, well. Buh-bye, Arnold.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Rest Of The Abu Ghraib Photos To Be Released Friday

George W. and Karl Rove thought they were pretty smart moving up the announcement of John G. Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court by two weeks to steer the media away from covering Rovegate.

The theory is that the mainstream media is completely incapable of covering more than one major story at a time. The theory is largely accurate. For the past week and a half, the media has been breathlessly covering every nook, cranny, and leak it can get its hands on regarding the Plame case. But once rumors started to spread from the White House that Chimpy was going to announce O'Connor's replacement, the mainstream media moved away from the Rove story and started a feeding frenzy around the Supreme Court story.

Mission accomplished for Bush and Rove, right? They got the media away from Rovegate and got them to concentrate on a story much more beneficial to Bush and his poll numbers.

Well, maybe. But maybe not. The strategy has definitely worked for a couple of days, but there's some more bad news coming down the road for the Bushies that's going to return the media's attention to an Iraq story that is harmful to Bush - more Abu Ghraib photos!!! Here's the scoop from Talkleft:

"Abu Ghraib Photos and Videos to be Released Friday

As part of the ongoing FOIA litigation on behalf of the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, a whole slew of the unreleased photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib are set to be released on Friday. These are the photographs and videos that were shown to the closed session of Congress, which reportedly include videos and photographs of the rape of detainees, including the rape of a male minor being held at the facility."

Oh, well, at least Bush and Rove got three days of positive coverage. That's about to change, however, if these Abu Ghraib photos see really do see the light of day on Friday. You should expect them to be dumped late in the day, well after the networks sign off their evening news broadcasts. But my guess is, these photos will be pretty brutal and the administration's strategy of killing a harmful news story by releasing it late on a Friday night won't work here. Surely the newspapers will lead with the photos on Saturday, the day of the week with the lowest circulation. But I bet we'll still be seeing these photos on the cover of Sunday's newspapers and hearing about the photos on the Sunday morning talk shows. And I bet Scotty's going to be hearing about them at the Monday gaggle, which also means hearing about them on Monday's evening news broadcasts.

No, the administration won't be able to kill the Abu Ghraib photo story if these pictures are as bad as they are rumored to be. The good news for Bush is, at least the media won't be able to focus on Rovegate anymore. The bad news is, I don't think Abu Ghraib is going to help his "honesty" numbers in the next Gallup poll any.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

State Dept. Memo Made Clear Plame Info Shouldn't Be Shared

The noose is closing tighter around the White House. They can run, they can hide, they spin and lie and miselad all they want on the cable news shows. But the evidence is beginning to mount that some high-level people at the White House learned Valerie Plame Wilson's identity from a classified State Department memo and knew that it was sensitive information that shouldn't be shared with anyone without a security clearance.

The Wall Street Journal
has the scoop. Since the article is behind a paywall, I will quote liberally from it:

"Memo Underscored
Issue of Shielding
Plame's Identity

July 19, 2005; Page A3

A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.

A special prosecutor is investigating whether Bush administration officials broke the law by intentionally outing a covert intelligence operative. Investigators are trying to determine if the memo, dated June 10, 2003, was how White House officials learned that Valerie Wilson was an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.

News that the memo was marked for its sensitivity emerged as President Bush yesterday appeared to backtrack from his 2004 pledge to fire any member of his staff involved in the leaking of the CIA agent's name. In a news conference yesterday that followed disclosures that his top strategist, Karl Rove, had discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with two reporters, Mr. Bush adopted a different formulation, specifying criminality as the standard for firing.

'If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration,' Mr. Bush said. White House spokesman Scott McClellan later disputed the suggestion that the president had shifted his position.

The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, may also be looking at whether other crimes -- such as perjury, obstruction of justice or leaking classified information -- were committed.

On July 6, 2003, former diplomat Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, disputing administration arguments that Iraq had sought to buy uranium ore from Africa to make nuclear weapons. The following day, President Bush and top cabinet officials left for Africa, and the memo was aboard Air Force One.

The paragraph in the memo discussing Ms. Wilson's involvement in her husband's trip is marked at the beginning with a letter designation in brackets to indicate the information shouldn't be shared, according to the person familiar with the memo. Such a designation would indicate to a reader that the information was sensitive. The memo, though, doesn't specifically describe Ms. Wilson as an undercover agent, the person familiar with the memo said.

Generally, the federal government has three levels of classified information -- top secret, secret and confidential -- all indicating various levels of 'damage' to national security if disclosed. There also is an unclassified designation -- indicating information that wouldn't harm national security if shared with the public -- but that wasn't the case for the material on the Wilsons prepared by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It isn't known what level of classification was assigned to the information in the memo.

Who received the memo, which was prepared for Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and how widely it was circulated are issues as Mr. Fitzgerald tries to pinpoint the origin of the leak of Ms. Wilson's identity. According to the person familiar with the document, it didn't include a distribution list. It isn't known if President Bush has seen the memo.

Mr. Fitzgerald has subpoenaed the phone logs from Air Force One for the week of the Africa tour, which precedes the revelation of Ms. Wilson's CIA identity in a column by Robert Novak on July 14. In that piece, Mr. Novak identified Valerie Plame, using Ms. Wilson's maiden name, saying that 'two senior administration officials' had told him that Ms. Wilson suggested sending her husband to Niger.

Mr. Novak attempted to reach Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, in the days before his column appeared. However, Mr. Fleischer didn't respond to Mr. Novak's inquiries, according to a person familiar with his account. Mr. Fleischer, who has since left the administration, is one of several officials who testified before the grand jury.

In an October 2003 article on the memo, The Wall Street Journal reported that it details a meeting in early 2002 in which CIA officials discussed how to verify reports that Iraq had sought uranium ore from Niger. Ms. Wilson, an agent working on issues related to weapons of mass destruction, recommended her husband, an expert on Africa, to travel to Niger to investigate the matter.

White House officials had been warning reporters off the notion that the trip to Niger was ordered by Vice President Dick Cheney, as Mr. Wilson had suggested. Emails and a first-person account published this week of his grand-jury testimony by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper support this notion. The grand jury is set to expire in October in this case, though its tenure could be extended for six months.

It is possible that reporters learned Ms. Wilson's identity from government officials who hadn't seen the memo. Mr. Cooper has testified and written that he was first told of Mr. Wilson's wife by Mr. Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff. Mr. Rove didn't identify Ms. Wilson by name. Similarly, one of Mr. Cooper's other sources, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, said he had heard Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, but he didn't identify her any further, according to Mr. Cooper."

I find a couple of interesting tidbits in this article.

First, the person who leaked the information to the Journal, identified as "a person familiar with the document" must be former Secretary of State Colin Powell. A few days ago when revelations surfaced that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald was looking into the classified State Dept. memo, word came that Colin Powell had been seen walking up and down the aisle of Air Force One with the memo. This word was from an "anonymous source" of course, and since most of the recent leaks in the Plame case have come from Karl Rove's defense team, it is not too big a leap to say that Rove was trying to send the investigation Powell's way.

Powell seems to be having none of it, however, which is why the Journal has this story today and why other information damaging to Rove/Libby/the White House could surface in the coming weeks if they keep trying to fuck with Powell. I bet the former General could tell us some very interesting things about the lead-up to war and the work the administration did behind the scenes to discredit Joe Wilson and his wife on the Niger story.

The second interesting tidbit from the Journal article is that whoever saw the information in the memo knows that Plame was classified. Even if Karl Rove didn't see the memo himself and got the info in it from another administration official or other officials, that person or persons would know that the Plame info was classified. So at a minimum, one person, even if it is not Karl Rove, broke the law by divulging Plame's name. But beyond that, if senior administration officials were passing this article back and forth around Air Force one while discussing ways to discredit Joe Wilson, or were talking to Karl Rove and others back in Washington about using the information against Wilson, there is a possible conspiracy charge pending that could destroy the Bush administration just one year into its second term.

Okay, Ken, Roy, Kay Bailey, and the rest of you Rove apologists - the ball's in your court. You want to try and spin the State Dept. memo info to make it all seem innocent and on the up-and-up? And remember, they're taping you every time you go on to bamboozle Wolf and Tweety, so they can make you eat your fucking lies later on.

How Do We Stop The Slaughter?

Whenever the situation in Iraq quiets down for a couple of days, some shill for the Bush administration issues some variation on the "Mission Accomplished" statement Bush first made on May 1, 2003 and has been regretting ever since. The latest pronouncement came from Maj. Gen. William G. Webster who said last week that the United States had "mostly eliminated" the Iraqi insurgency's ability to "conduct sustained, high-intensity attacks" in Baghdad.

Unfortunately since Webster issued his partial victory declaration, Baghdad has exploded with violence. More than a dozen suicide bombers have blanketed the capital and surrounding areas with death this past week while Shiite police have retaliated by torturing and murdering Sunnis suspected of having ties to or sympathy for the insurgency. Insurgents have ratched up their campaign of assassinating any Sunni who works with the Iraqi government while Iraqi soldiers and police have become special targets for the suicide bombers and roadside bomb makers.

So is Iraq as bad off as it seems or is the news media ignoring the "good news" to focus on the bad? BBC writer John Simpson weighs in on this question and finds the situation in Iraq quite grave:

"Here in Baghdad, it's beginning to feel like a critical moment.

In the last week this city has seen 22 car bombs, with 10 on a single day - last Friday. Not far from Baghdad, at Musayyib, between Hilla and Karbala, nearly 100 Shia Muslims were killed.
The shadowy resistance movements seem to be operating on a new and much more ambitious level.

Last summer, and in the summer of 2003, there were similar peaks, though much lower ones: The ferocious heat seems to produce new reserves of anger and violence here.

As I flew in, sitting in the aircraft cockpit, Baghdad lay dark and irregular, like a blotch of ink, straight ahead of us. Below lay the ribbon of road from the south.

In the months after the US-led invasion of Iraq we used to drive up that road to get to Baghdad. By the beginning of 2004 that was already becoming much too dangerous, and we had to fly.

Notorious road

The pilots looked at each other, and the plane went into a fierce dive, down towards the military airfield on the south-west of the ink-blotch.

We straightened out, then banked so steeply to the left that everything loose skidded across the cockpit floor. Then a sudden turn, equally heart-wrenching, in the other direction.

During the hour-long flight the pilots scarcely spoke to me. Ever since an RAF Hercules went down north of Baghdad, six months ago, air crews have concentrated totally on the job of getting their planes in safely.

The plane door opened, and we clambered out. The air was as hot as an electric heater: 50C, even in the late afternoon.

The sun glared down angrily through the haze, reddish and inflamed like a nasty wound.

Ahead of us lay the most dangerous stretch of road in the world: the highway from Baghdad to the airport. Two car bombs had just been discovered along it.

Another change since I was last here, a few months ago: the Iraqi national police were out in force along the road, stopping cars of particular makes, and particular colours; that's how they found the two car bombs before they went off.

Yet the greater numbers of police haven't stopped the bombers; on the contrary, they have given the bombers a new target - the police checkpoints themselves.

I visit Baghdad at least four times a year, to see how things are developing. Since the fall of Saddam in May 2003, and the capture of Baghdad, after which major operations were declared over, I have been here eleven times.

Each time the security situation has been markedly worse than the time before.

'Endless' bombers

Briefly, after the election in January, which brought an Iraqi government to power, things seemed to improve; then, after some weeks of fewer bombs and fewer deaths, the level of attacks rose again.

Now it is higher than it has been at any time since May 2003. The supply of suicide bombers seems endless.

Two separate campaigns appear to be going on: the Baathist resistance movement which Saddam Hussein planned and provided vast stocks of weapons and money for, is targeting the Iraqi army and police, and to a lesser extent the American and British forces.

As far as anyone can tell, this is the larger and better equipped of the two main underground movements.

The other is the extremist religious movement headed (we assume) by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which announced last year that it was associating itself with al-Qaeda. Foreign Muslims in sizeable numbers have come into the country to support it.

Intelligence officials in Baghdad say this group gives the appearance of being more active, because it apparently has a policy of claiming responsibility for major attacks whether or not it has actually carried them out.

But to be honest, who does what is largely a matter of guesswork.

'Civil war'

Someone, though, is deliberately targeting Shia Muslims. Last Friday's attack in Musayyib was carried out by a suicide bomber driving a hijacked petrol tanker. It exploded outside the Shia mosque.

Both of the main streams of resistance, the Baathists and the supporters of al-Qaeda, are predominantly Sunni, and both seem to believe that they will benefit if the security crisis here turns into an outright civil war between Shias and Sunnis.

The January election, which for a time seemed to improve the situation, has actually made things more difficult in one way.

Since the Sunnis tended to boycott the vote, the result put political power into the hands of the two other main groups in Iraq, the Shia Muslims and the Kurds.

The US and British governments saw the invasion of Iraq as a liberation, a way of getting rid of a particularly nasty regime. Instead, things are getting much worse.

The casualty figures mean that on average as many people are now dying here every day as were killed in the London bombings nearly two weeks ago.

It has become a civil war, fought out with car bombs and shots to the head, while the foreign forces, US and British and the rest, look on, incapable of stopping it. This isn't how things were supposed to turn out here. "

If Simpson is to be believed, the situation in Iraq is as bad as it seems. So how do we change it? How do we end the slaughter?

It seems to me that leaving troop deployments at their current levels won't help end the slaughter. It is fairly obvious that we have not had enough troops to really take the fight to the insurgency and we would probably need at least 100,000 more to make a dent in the problem. It also is obvious that we don't have those kind of troop numbers to add to Iraq nor the political will to add them. Preznit Bush likes to play a tough guy on television, but he's really been a coward when it comes to leveling with the American people about the situation in Iraq. He's never going to suggest adding more troops nor saying we made a mistake by not having enough there in the first place. Instead he's going to spin everything as positively as he can and say "Don't believe your eyes and what you're seeing from Iraq; believe my words and what I'm telling you is going on in Iraq." So adding more troops to Iraq is not a viable solution.

Many on the left suggest leaving the country, but pulling our troops out of Iraq won't end the slaughter either. Surely the insurgents will be energized by the defeat of the United States (and make no mistake - it would be a defeat on the level of Vietnam no matter how Preznit Bush, Karl Rove or Brit Hume try to spin it). If the United States took out Saddam to help stabilize the Middle East, as one of the post-war rationales goes, then leaving the country with a full-fledged, energized insurgency (or worse, a civil war) is not going help the cause. Instead one could envision the Iraqi government falling pretty quickly and being replaced by some version of the mullahs in Iran. This would not be a positive outcome for the United States and the world, to say the least.

So what's the answer? I wish I knew. Hell, I wish our leaders knew. But they don't. BushCo spin the Iraq war the best way they can, shout down critics (even Republican critics like Chuck Hagel) and try to divert America's attention from the slaughter. Some Democrats call for a pull-out, some call to stay the course, but no one really knows what to do.

The problem is that the solution to Iraq seems to be between "worse" and "worst". We left "bad" behind a long time ago and I'm not sure "good" was ever in the equation despite the Bushies optimism that democracy could flower in Iraq. Certainly the ineptitude with which the Bushies handled the "post-Mission Accomplished" phase ended any chance for a positive outcome.

Now we must find a partial solution that minimizes the damage to the United States' reputation and ends the slaughter as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately I don't think the guys running the show are capable of doing either.

But they sure do look good in their Top Gun flight suits.

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