Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, November 16th, 2005.


Mary Mapes and the Killian Memos

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Bush Administration

Hunter writes about Mary Mapes, the producer who lost her job at CBS over the Killian memos. Long-time readers will recall that Hunter and I were among a handful of bloggers who didn’t buy the “forgery” arguments pouring out of the Right Blogosphere.

Anyway, Hunter writes,

Former CBS producer Mary Mapes will be on Air America Radio’s Majority Report today. I’ll be putting up a review of her book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power sometime in the next few days, but short version: it’s definitely worth a read. (Those of you still hankering for typography battles — or those of you more appropriately looking for new evidence into the life of one of this country’s most fortunate sons — might be interested in the expanding document collection at the book’s website.)

As a veteran of the typography battles, I noted what Mapes says about the document collection:

These internal letters and memos were photocopied at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas by researcher Steven Jones in the fall of 2004. All materials came from the Adjutant General’s communication files …

… These memos also demonstrate a variety of format styles and typefaces, including proportional spacing and right hand signature blocks, which are common in the Killian documents.

Here’s an encapsulated version of the typewriter arguments, distilled down a lot. If you aren’t interested, skip the stuff between the asterisks.

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The rightie typographical argument, in a nutshell, was that typewriters that might been in use by the Texas National Guard ca. 1970s did not produce proportional spacing and superscript letters, meaning the memos CBS posted in PDF format could not have been typed in the 1970s. Further, since the memos could be replicated in MicroSoft Word using default settings, they must have been created in MicroSoft Word. Those are strong circumstantial arguments.

However, it seems there were typewriters rattling around ca. 1970s that produced proportional spacing and superscript letters, and the military had them. Both Mapes and Paul Lukasiak, among others, have found other typed documents of the era released by the Department of Defense with proportional type. Further, MicroSoft Word originally was created to replace electronic typewriters, so it mimics typewriter functions — including, for example, default half-inch tab stops, which was the tab stop recommended by typing instructors back in the day — and any typed document can be replicated with Word very nicely if you’ve got the right font installed. The righties ignored the fact that the type font (which was severely distorted by multiple faxing and copying) in the memos did not conform to Times New Roman (which it most closely resembled) in all points and actually more closely resembled a font used by 1970s-era electric typewriters. Finally, you might remember a graphic demonstration that presented a Killian memo superimposed over a MicroSoft Word replica of the same memo, showing them matching exactly. But PDFs are graphic files, and they can be stretched and squeezed like any other graphic file if you have PhotoShop or similar software. I don’t know if the creator of the flashing bitmap (or GIF, or whatever it was) did manipulate the PDF to force it to match the Word document, but since it could have been manipulated the demonstration didn’t prove anything.

So I am still inclined to believe the memos were not forgeries. Unfortunately, the authenticity of the memos cannot be proved for a fact without originals, which probably no longer exist.

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Whether the memos are authentic or not, I still think it was damn reckless of Mapes to post those memos, since there was no way to physically authenticate them and since their provenance was highly questionable.

I haven’t looked much at Mapes’s new material, but Hunter argues it’s time to re-open the issue of Bush’s National Guard service. In the current media culture the issue might get a fairer hearing than it got two years ago. However, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time on it right now; I think the issue of WMD manipulation, Traitorgate, and maybe Cheney’s Energy Task Force are more critical to the Cause, and that adds up to a lot of stuff on the public attention plate.

But when the day comes that all the other BushCo crimes and corruptions are laid out in the sunlight for all to see, then we will say, “… and about Dubya’s National Guard service ….”

NOTE TO NEW WOULD-BE COMMENTERS: Comments are closed on this topic. For those of you eager to explain to me how typewriters couldn’t have re-created MS Word defaults: You are wrong. High-end office electric typewriters of the 1970s were highly sophisticated machines that did many things ordinary typewriters could not do. In fact, the defaults written into the original MS Word were created to mimic office typewriters. If you are too young to have ever used these machines (or were otherwise occupied in the 1970s), please don’t bother explaining to me about the defaults. Tabs, line breaks, etc. — all accounted for. Including centering. At worst, on the high-end machines a good typist could keep centered lines to no more than about 1/32 of an inch off center, if not perfectly centered.

I used them a lot; I even typed a couple of Ph.D. dissertations on them. I know what the machines could do.

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Is Woody Helping Scooter?

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criminal justice, News Media, Valerie Plame

On MSNBC, Chris Matthews is referring to Bob Woodward’s unnamed administration official as “Deep Throat II.” Please…

[Update: John Dean thinks DTII could be Ari Fleischer. He just said this to Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

Update update: Raw Story says it’s Stephen Hadley.]

(If you’ve not been following the new Woodward/Plame angle, the details are here.)

Matthews speculates that DTII and/or Woodward came forward now in an attempt to take some of the shine off the Libby indictment. I don’t see how Woodward’s revelation makes any difference to the Libby indictment. Whether Libby was the first leaker or not doesn’t seem to me to matter to the charges. And as Maha reader Donna pointed out, Fitzgerald didn’t claim that Libby was the first leaker, just that he was the first official KNOWN to have leaked. The whole reason Libby was indicted is that he obstructed the investigation and prevented Fitzgerald from knowing stuff. So if they’re trying to manufacture a talking point, this seems a pretty lame effort.

On the other hand, righties have certainly based talking points on much less.

Howie Kurtz reports that Woodward apologized today for waiting two years to tell WaPo‘s executive about his connection to the Plame case. The editor, Leonard Downie Jr., has been all CNN and MSNBC today claiming that he was not angry with Woodward and that all was forgiven and he hopes Woodward keeps writing for the Washington Post.

Downie also said that three administration officials talked about Valerie Plame Wilson to Bob Woodward. Two have given releases for Bob to write about their conversation, and those two are Scooter Libby and Andy Card. But the third remains a mystery.

Update: See also first-rate rant by ReddHedd at firedoglake.

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Adventures With Dick

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Bush Administration, Dick Cheney

While we’re tripping down Memory Lane today … do you remember Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force? If not, quick refresher: Organized in January 2001 about ten minutes after Bush’s first inauguration, the task force was charged with writing the Bush Administration’s energy policy and met in secret. The Dick refused even to divulge the identity of task force members. In May 2001, the Bush Administration announced policies that appeared to be written by oil industry executives for the benefit of the oil industry. Which, of course, they were.

And now the Veep, softened up somewhat by the Libby indictment and the Bush Administration’s unpopularity, could be vulnerable to more charges.

Dana Milbank and Justin Blum write in today’s Washington Post:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney’s energy task force in 2001 — something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

These guys lied to Congress? Isn’t that a crime? Oh, wait, they weren’t sworn in, were they? Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) denied a motion to swear them in and charged ahead with the proceedings. Makes you wonder if Stevens knew they were about to lie (ya think?). Still, they may be in trouble:

The executives were not under oath when they testified, so they are not vulnerable to charges of perjury; committee Democrats had protested the decision by Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) not to swear in the executives. But a person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making “any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation” to Congress.

We should all email our senators about this.

But the executives are not the first task force participants who lied to Congress. The first was the Big Dick himself.

Back in August 2003, John Dean wrote for Findlaw
:

This month, the General Accounting Office (GAO) – the investigative and auditing arm of Congress – issued a report that contains some startling revelations. Though they are couched in very polite language, they are bombshells nonetheless.

The report – entitled “Energy Task Force: Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy” – and its accompanying Chronology strongly imply that the Administration has, in effect, been paying off its heavy-hitting energy industry contributors. It also very strongly implies that Vice President Dick Cheney lied to Congress.

Right; the first thing on BushCo’s mind after the 2001 inauguration was to find ways to reward the loyal industrialists whose fundraising helped made Bush’s “victory” possible. And energy policy was a hot-button issue at the time because of the ongoing California energy crisis, a crisis that was in large part caused by Enron manipulation. And by some coincidence, George W. Bush flew to Washington for his inauguration in an Enron jet. But I digress. Let’s go back to John Dean:

The Background: How Cheney Stonewalled GAO

In a sense, this story begins during the close 2000 Presidential election, when energy industry special interests were big-dollar contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. (In 2004’s re-election campaign, they will doubtless be called upon once again.)

After he was elected – and very much beholden to those contributors – Bush put Cheney in charge of developing the National Energy Policy. To do so, Cheney convened an Energy Task Force. (Details about the Task Force can be found in my prior column.)

Cheney’s selection alone was ominous: He had headed Halliburton, just the kind of big-dollar Republican energy industry contributor that had helped Bush-Cheney win the election in the first place.

The Energy Task Force might have operated in absolute secrecy, were it not for GAO. GAO is a nonpartisan agency with statutory authority to investigate “all matters related to the receipt, disbursement, and use of public money,” so that it can judge the expenditures and effectiveness of public programs, and report to Congress on what it finds.

To fulfill its statutory responsibility, GAO sought documents from Vice-President Cheney relating to Energy Task Force expenditures. But in a literally unprecedented move, the White House said no.

On August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney sent a letter – personally signed by him – to Congress demanding, in essence, that it get the Comptroller off his back. In the letter, he claimed that his staff had already provided “documents responsive to the Comptroller General’s inquiry concerning the costs associated with the [Energy task force’s] work.” As I will explain later, this turned out to be a lie.

In the end, GAO had to go to court to try to get the documents to which it plainly was entitled. On December 9, 2002, GAO lost in court – though, as I argued in a prior column, the decision was incorrect.

Then, on February 9, 2003, the Comptroller General announced GAO’s decision not to appeal. He said he feared that another adverse decision would cause the agency to lose even more power, more permanently. Several news accounts suggest that it was the Republican leadership of Congress that stopped the appeal.

There’s corruption inside of corruption inside of corruption in this story. It just doesn’t stop.

The GAO, thus stonewalled, issued a report that, says John Dean, revealed fibs on the part of The Dick. “The Report shows that Cheney’s claim to Congress, in the August 2, 2001 letter, that responsive documents were provided to GAO, was plainly false,” wrote Dean. From Dean’s account, it appears that the Veep sent a lot of bogus paper (including phone bills, columns of unidentified figures, and a pizza receipt) to the GAO instead of documents requested. And he got away with this.

Maybe.

Let’s go back to today’s WaPo article:

The task force’s activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate. “The White House went to great lengths to keep these meetings secret, and now oil executives may be lying to Congress about their role in the Cheney task force,” Lautenberg said.

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on the document. She said that the courts have upheld “the constitutional right of the president and vice president to obtain information in confidentiality.”

I believe that is court, singular. U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissed the GAO’s suit in December 2002, and as exlained above the GAO decided not to appeal. John Dean and Rep. Henry Waxman, among others, believed strongly the opinion was incorrect.

The Congressman’s web site maintains lots of good background material on the Energy Task Force and the BushCo relationship with Big Oil.

John Dean was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last week, explaining why he believed The Dick will resign after next year’s midterm elections, if not sooner. He explains his reasons in this Findlaw column on the Libby indictment. Dean argues that Patrick Fitzgerald is ultimately after Dick the Dick for violation of the Espionage Act, and Libby’s obstruction blocked charges against Cheney. After presenting the legal thinking behind this argument, Dean concludes:

It has been reported that Libby’s attorney tried to work out a plea deal. But Fitzgerald insisted on jail time, so Libby refused to make a deal. It appears that only Libby, in addition to Cheney, knows what Cheney knew, and when he knew, and why he knew, and what he did with his knowledge.

Fitzgerald has clearly thrown a stacked indictment at Libby, laying it on him as heavy as the law and propriety permits. He has taken one continuous false statement, out of several hours of interrogation, and made it into a five-count indictment. It appears he is trying to flip Libby – that is, to get him to testify against Cheney — and not without good reason. Cheney is the big fish in this case.

Will Libby flip? Unlikely. Neither Cheney nor Libby (I believe) will be so foolish as to crack a deal. And Libby probably (and no doubt correctly) assumes that Cheney – a former boss with whom he has a close relationship — will (at the right time and place) help Libby out, either with a pardon or financially, if necessary. Libby’s goal, meanwhile, will be to stall going to trial as long as possible, so as not to hurt Republicans’ showing in the 2006 elections.

So if Libby can take the heat for a time, he and his former boss (and friend) may get through this. But should Republicans lose control of the Senate (where they are blocking all oversight of this administration), I predict Cheney will resign “for health reasons.

And now the Energy Task Force deal may be about to bite him, too. He can run, but he can’t hide.

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Bernie’s a Bad Boy

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criminal justice

Remember Bernie Kerik, the ethics-challenged former New York City police commissioner who was chosen by President Bush to be Director of Homeland Security? He’s in the news again. William Rashbaum writes in today’s New York Times that Bernie is accused of taking tens of thousands of dollars in apparent bribes from a construction company when Bernie was NYC correction commissioner in the late 1990s. Even better, the construction company is associated with organized crime.

Wow, that Dubya sure knows how to pick ’em.

These accusations emerged during the uproar following Kerik’s withdrawal from nomination, although most of that uproar focused on Kerik’s extramarital adventures. But some New Jersey officials were paying attention. Yesterday the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement filed papers with the state Casino Control Commission to stop the construction company, Interstate Industrial Corporation, from doing work on Atlantic City casinos. The New Jersey officials have no authority to bring charges against Kerik, but he is featured prominently in the accusations nonetheless. For example:

The agency officials said yesterday that Interstate paid another contractor for renovations worth more than $200,000 made to Mr. Kerik’s apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in 1999 and 2000.

Mr. Kerik, who is now a consultant to the government of Jordan, could not be reached yesterday.

A lawyer for him, Joseph Tacopina, said that Mr. Kerik was not aware that Interstate had paid for the work done on the Bronx apartment, and that he doubted that the work was as expensive as the officials said.

The officials also said that Interstate gave Mr. Kerik’s brother, Donald, an $85,000-a-year job at the same time Mr. Kerik was using his influence within New York City government to help the company win a license to operate on Staten Island.

Some of the details of Mr. Kerik’s dealings with Interstate and its owners, Frank and Peter DiTommaso, became public late in 2004 after President Bush nominated him as homeland security secretary. Mr. Kerik withdrew his name, citing possible tax problems involving his family’s nanny.

So Bernie’s not facing charges, yet. But the Bronx district attorney is looking at him real hard

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Sore Throat

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News Media, Valerie Plame

Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig report in today’s Washington Post that some “administration official” told Bob Woodward about Valerie Plame Wilson a whole month before Scooter Libby blabbed to Judy Miller et al.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

The unnamed official, not Bob Woodward, alerted Patrick Fitzgerald to this conversation on November 3. Woodward testified to a grand jury Monday. (So I guess Fitz got himself another grand jury, huh?) Woodward hadn’t bothered to tell even his editors at WaPo about what the official told him until last month.

WaPo held off reporting about Woodward’s testimony until today because they hoped the official would release Woodward from a confidentiality agreement. I guess that didn’t happen.

A spokesperson for Karl Rove says the official wasn’t Karl. And we have absolutely no reason to believe anything a spokesperson for Karl Rove says, do we?

Of course, there’s not much reason to trust anything Woodward says, either. According to Woodward, back in June 2003 he tipped off Walter Pincus of WaPo about Joe Wilson’s wife, but Pincus says that’s not so.

Woodward’s statement said he testified: “I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst.”

Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

“Are you kidding?” Pincus said. “I certainly would have remembered that.”

Pincus said Woodward may be confused about the timing and the exact nature of the conversation. He said he remembers Woodward making a vague mention to him in October 2003. That month, Pincus had written a story explaining how an administration source had contacted him about Wilson. He recalled Woodward telling him that Pincus was not the only person who had been contacted.

Ol’ Bob seems confused about many things. As reported by Jane Hamsher at firedoglake:

Woodward isn’t just reluctant to criticize the Administration — he’s become the water carrier of choice. Schanberg doesn’t report the big, fat whopping lie that Woodward went on to tell in that interview, that he had seen the CIA damage report done on the Plame leak:

    They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson’s wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn’t have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment.

Two days later, the WaPo ran a story saying that no such CIA report was ever done. I guess that was the official answer as to what Woodward’s “news room colleagues” thought of his put-down of their efforts.

Larry Johnson went further:

    I have spoken to some people who are in a position to know. There has been damage. My source, however, declined to share classified information.

As Josh Marshall points out, this story shows that the integrity challenged Woodward, who has been pooh-poohing the Plame Wilson story all along, was part of it from the beginning.

Scooter’s lawyers are now claiming that this disclosure somehow exonerates their client.

“If what Woodward says is so, will Mr. Fitzgerald now say he was wrong to say on TV that Scooter Libby was the first official to give this information to a reporter?” Jeffress said last night. “The second question I would have is: Why did Mr. Fitzgerald indict Mr. Libby before fully investigating what other reporters knew about Wilson’s wife?”

Of course, if ol’ Bob was keeping this disclosure a secret even from his editors, how exactly was Fitz supposed to know about it? But Fitz is still shaking the trees; the Libby indictment is not just a result but is part of his tree-shaking strategy, no doubt.

We are left to wonder who the unnamed official is and why this person waited until after the Libby indictment to reveal the Woodward connection to Fitzgerald. Guesses?

Update–hack sighting: CNN just reported on this story. They exhumed Bob Barr, of all people, to interview about the Energy Task Force. Lame.

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