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saturday, july 23, 2005

Rove Watch Watch
Be sure to read Digby's post on the investigation into who forged the Niger documents. There is a possible Judy Miller connection -- "she's the Zelig of the iraq operation." Heh.

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10:07 pm | link

Not So Simple
Since the July 7 London bombings I've seen a number of rightie bloggers suggesting that the way to stop terrorism is to stop and search all "Middle-Eastern looking" men at subway stops.
Today we learned that a man shot dead by London police as a suspected terrorist was innocent. He was also a Brazilian national, not Middle Eastern.
I was thinking about that in New York City today. There are millions of people who use the subway system every day who qualify as "Middle Eastern-looking." They might be Middle Eastern, or Latino, or from India, or biracial, or European with a good tan.  And when I say millions, I do mean millions. Every day.
In New York City, if you are afraid of Middle Eastern-looking men in the subways or buses, the only alternative beside walking is to catch a ride from a friendly Pakistani cab driver. (Trying to get around in Manhattan in your own car is way impractical; I don't recommend it.) 
I took a Metro North train to Grand Central today and didn't see any backpacks searched, although I saw signs at one train stop saying that backpacks might be searched. I understand they're doing random searches in the subways now, which can't be much more than a token gesture.
My only point is that there aren't any easy solutions. But anyone who thinks it would be just so simple to single out the "Middle Eastern-looking" mass transit riders and search them should hang out in a Manhattan subway station for a while and notice how many riders qualify.
Update, Oh Shit Department: Scotland blames Wales ... not really, but here's an item from The Scotsman saying some of the suspects in this week's London bombings were seen in north Wales with some perps of the July 7 bombings.
Great; I'll be in north Wales in mid-August (the Ancestral Homeland Tour; details TK). Better and better.

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9:19 pm | link

Downing Street Day Photo Gallery
Patriotic citizens outside the NBC studio at Rockefeller Plaza today, calling attention to the Downing Street Memos: 
Billionaires for Bush!
Above: Nice young man who tried to give me a brochure.
Below: Zooming in.
Across the street, tourists were lined up to get their pictures taken with the friendly and heavily armed NYPD.
I don't last long in the heat these days, so I only went there briefly to take pictures. I thank my fellow patriots who stood around in the nearly 90 degree heat to wave signs and hand out brochures.
However, I do want to nag about one thing. For a while I watched from a distance. There was one fellow waving a handmade sign and angrily yelling at the passing tourists about Bushie corruption. Now, what the guy said was true, but it was plain to me that his efforts were not helping the cause. He was just making passers-by uncomfortable. People hurried past with their heads down. 
And the woman who was screaming at the tourists (and me) for taking photos of the cops with machine guns was definitely not helping the cause. Displays of intolerance and hostility toward the people you want to persuade is, um, stupid. Really, really stupid.
But as I hope you can see from the photos, the overall vibe was one of cheerful earnestness. Good job.

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4:48 pm | link

Retro War
I've written before about the Bush Administration's archaic anti-terrorism strategies and how remarkably counterproductive they are. Well, there's more, shall we say, vintage policy thinking on display at the New York Times Editorial Page Museum of Political Antiques and Oddities.
Get this: National and Homeland security advisers Stephen Hadley and Frances Townsend want to fight terrorism the same way we fought World War II 

The London attacks served to underscore the reality that we face an enemy determined to destroy our way of life and substitute for it a fanatical vision of dictatorial and theocratic rule. At its root, the struggle is an ideological contest, a war of ideas that engages all of us, public servant and private citizen, regardless of nationality.

We have waged such wars before, and we know how to win them.  

We have? We do? Pray tell, when in the past were the first-world democracies wholesale targets of stateless and global terrorist organizations whose weapon of choice is suicide bombs striking civilian targets?

... our efforts since the attacks of 9/11 have been guided by three important lessons learned when free peoples twice defeated totalitarianism in the last century.

I'm assuming they're talking about World War II and the Cold War. But isn't responding to terrorism with pre-9/11 policy supposed to be bad?

First and most important, we must have a clear understanding of the ideology espoused by the enemy.

This from the administration that famously reduces all jihadi ideology to "they hate our freedom."

The terrorists we face today aim to remake the Middle East in their own grim image - one that, as President Bush has said, "hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent."

Sounds like Rush Limbaugh.

This vision is eerily reminiscent of earlier totalitarian systems, where a radical few subjugated the helpless many. Then as now, terror is the principal tool of the totalitarian.

It's a tool, and as a rule once a totalitarian regime is firmly entrenched it can become a principal tool. But the Big Cheese dictators of the 20th century--Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Castro, etc.--didn't come into power by telling the people "make us dictator or we'll shoot your dog." In some cases (e.g. Mao, Castro) they had a large base of popular support in their respective countries before they gained control. They gained this support in large part by packaging themselves as saviors of the people; the antidote to the corrupt, incompetent, and oppressive regimes they eventually replaced.

Today's terrorists seek through barbaric violence to topple governments, export terrorism and force free nations to stand down. The terrorists believe democracies are weak, and that those who champion freedom will retreat in the face of relentless attacks - that people, in Osama bin Laden's words, "will like the strong horse."

There's no question that today's terrorists are a nasty piece of work and represent a terrible danger. The question is, what is the best response? What can we do to minimize the terrorist threat and slow the spread of jihadi fanaticism? Judging by the results, Bush Administration policies have been exactly wrong.

History has taught us that the best antidote to totalitarianism is forceful resolve coupled with actions that advance human freedom.  

The antidote to the Third Reich was armed invasion. In a large sense, I suppose one could argue that the D-Day assault was an act of forceful resolve that advanced human freedom. The end of the Cold War came about in an entirely different way, and there remains enormous partisan disagreement over how much influence American policy actually played in the collapse of the Soviet empire. But as Russia is edging back toward dictatorship, I wonder if we didn't all celebrate the victory a tad too soon.

In any event, it's fine to make speeches about how freedom is better than totalitarianism and about how much "resolve" we all have. But that doesn't answer the basic question--what is the best policy? What concrete steps should we be taking to put an end to today's threat? What, exactly, should we do? The policies of democratic nations to oppose the Axis in World War II, and the policies of democratic nations during the Cold War, were very different policies. Yes, the policies may have shared basic philosophical goals (e.g., totalitarianism is bad), but that's about it.

Our logic is straightforward. Terrorists exploit conditions of despair and feelings of resentment where freedom is denied. When we support the vision and reality of a freer and hopeful future, we undercut the ideological underpinning for the terrorists and embolden those opposed to their grim vision.

That's grand, but the fact remains that Bush Administration policies are not working. The Bushies ought to be asking themselves why. Clearly, a whole lotta people are not realizing the glorious vision of a freer and hopeful future (clunky phrase, that).

I don't see anyone opposed to freedom and hope. I do see people arguing that Bush policies are not bringing freedom and hope to the Middle East, just increasing instability and violence. Not to mention corruption.

Another howler: "...we must overcome America's mixed record on supporting freedom in the Middle East. For too long we accepted a false bargain that promised stability if we looked the other way when democracy was denied."

Can we say Azerbaijan? Egypt? Pakistan?

Hadley and Townsend continue to evoke freedom and hope and freedom and vision and freedom to the end of the article. I'm not sure what they are trying to accomplish here. I actually agree with much of what they say. The problem is, Bush Administration polcies work in opposition to most of what they say. And instead of re-examining policies that are obviously failing, they do nothing but churn out more horseshit about what great visions they have. Not to mention how much resolve

The problem is that neither Hadley nor Townsend, nor anyone else in the Bush administration, seem to have a clue.

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7:05 am | link

friday, july 22, 2005

Blogged Out
I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed today, as there are a great many more things going on today I wished to blog about than I was able to blog about.
So, here are just some random bloggy bits, in no particular order.
See Steve Soto on the John Bolton-Judy Miller connection and the last-minute motion against release of more Abu Ghraib photos.
In this morning's hearing, at one point Larry Johnson said it is normal procedure, after an agent is exposed, for the CIA to write up a damage assessment. This assessment would have been filed with the House Intelligence Committee. I wonder if anyone has seen this? I suppose it's classified, although if it minimized the damage the Bushies would have leaked it anyway.
Tomorrow is Downing Street Memo day. I plan to wander into Manhattan tomorrow to take pictures of the silent vigil outside of NBC studios, beginning at 10 am. There's to be another event with speakers (e.g., Randi Rhodes) at 2 pm at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 W. 64th St. at Central Park West, and I might attend if I feel up to it.  
Momentous things are happening, so what are the righties worked up about today? Judging by memeorandum, they're pissed that  of WaPo snarked about John Roberts's family --  "His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues -- like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers."
I clearly remember that, during Bill Clinton's first term in particular, Hillary's every public appearance was greated by a chorus of derision about her clothes and hair. I'm sure the same people quivering with indignation about Givhan's article were just as indignant about worse treatment of the First Lady.
However, and as much as I believe in principle that criticizing a lady's wardrome is mean, I had a hard time with the strawberry pink suit. I keep thinking of Morticia Addams in the second Addams Family movie--"But Debbie ... pastels?"
Tbogg snarks a bit, too.

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10:25 pm | link

Not a Yuan
This is a follow up to yesterday's post, "Big Yuan," about the unpegging of the dollar to the yuan.
This is, at least potentially a very big deal -- for reasons which I've been talking about, off and on, almost since I first opened Whiskey Bar. While the financial market reaction to yesterday's move was, all things considered, relatively mild, there's no guarantee that will remain true going forward.

It's possible, in fact, that we have just passed a major milestone in economic history -- and in the much briefer history of America's reign as the world's only superpower. But this may not be recognized for many years to come. ...


The factors that have allowed the United States to run enormous, sustained current acount deficits -- deflation, globalization, the Asian savings glut -- may persist for some time. But sooner or later, the sheer size of America's external liabilities is going to force foreign creditors to limit their exposure to our reckless financial behavior. Solvency, not relative rates of return, will be the issue on their minds then.

BW II only postpones the day; it can't prevent it. By allowing America to go steadily deeper into debt, it also makes the day's arrival more certain and more dangerous. And by modifying the dollar peg -- even if only slightly -- China has set the clock in motion.

There's a lot more detail in the elipses. That was just the teaser.

Now a word from Da Man himself, Paul Krugman:

... it could be the start of a process that will turn the world economy upside down - or, more accurately, right side up. That is, the free ride China has been giving America, in which the world's richest economy has been getting cheap loans from a country that is dynamic but still quite poor, may be coming to an end.

It's all about which way the capital is flowing. ...

...Right now America is a superpower living on credit - something I don't think has happened since Philip II ruled Spain. What will happen to our stature if and when China takes away our credit card?

This story is still in its early days. On the first day of the new policy, the yuan rose only 2 percent, not enough to make any noticeable difference. But one of these days Chinese dollar purchases will trail off, and we'll find ourselves living in interesting times.

Well, that's a cheerful thought.

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3:29 pm | link

A Break, Taking I Am
Via Matt Yglesias--this is way too funny. "Revenge of the Sith," translated from the original Chinese script, "The Backstroke of the West." Hysterical.

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2:12 pm | link

Live Blog, Special Joint Hearing
12:24 The hearing has concluded. What follows are my live-blogged notes (more recent stuff at the top reordered chronologically) that I hope are useful. I will go through them and write something more coherent this afternoon.
Impressions: One essential point the witnesses all made, over and over, is that the damage to intelligence has been compounded by White House stonewalling. For two years the White House has been sending the message that protecting intelligence operatives and assets is a low priority, and this in turn is doing incalculable damage to our intelligence gathering operations.
President Bush had a responsibility, they said, to act immediately, when the Novak column was published, to find out what happened and discipline the leaker. Instead, he's blown it off and deflected responsibility.
The witnesses are outraged that Bush has done nothing. His hiding behind a criminal investigation -- he'll take action if it turns out somebody is guilty -- is a shocking violation of his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.
Most of the witnesses said that this kind of behavior from the White House is unprecedented, although one, MacMichael, said it reminded him of what was done with Howard Hunt during the Watergate episode. I admit I don't remember the details of the Howard Hunt adventure clearly. 
Louise Slaughter used the "T" word-- At the worst, treason was committed by high-ranking White House officials.
Lots of juicy quotes --  Jim Marcinkowski spoke of the political operatives trashing Wilson and Plame as "prime time patriots" and "partisan ninnies" (I think he said ninnies). Every time you polish your American flag pin, he says, you should reflect on what your words and actions are doing to the American people.
Larry Johnson said, You have the assumption that people in the white house are adults and not a bunch of petulant children. But this bunch, he says, acts like children fighting over baseball mitts. Did I mention he's really disgusted?
OK, as I said, I need a break, and then I'll write some more.
[UPDATE: You can watch the hearings on the web by going to the CSPAN home page and clicking on the link under "Recent Programs,"  "Hearing on Security Implications of Revealing Covert Agent's Identity"]
[UPDATE: David Corn has the testimony from James Marcinkowski. I'm not sure if this is an exact transcript; more likely his testimony as prepared beforehand. Pretty close, though.] 
10:07 The hearing is just getting started. It's on CSPAN 3. Here's a press release explaining the purpose of the hearing.
10:08 Senator Schumer is speaking. He says that the day after Novak's column he talked to George Tenet on the phone. Tenet and others were furious that Plame's name was leaked. Schumer and Tenet decided that the only way this matter would ever be investigated would be if the CIA made a strong request for an investigation.
When we launched this investigation, Schumer said, we had no idea where it would lead. We only knew a dastardly crime had been committed.
The White House tried to deny it. They denied the involvement of Rove, Libby. But now they're trying to trivialize it. And they're putting out false information.
Fitzgerald, a prosecutor's prosecutor, will get to the bototm of this. We have to protect the national security of our country.
Then Schumer discusses New York Times article I discussed in previous post, below.
Schumer believes three things should be done:
One, Schumer believes the security clearances of Rove and Libby should be suspended.
Second, the President should fire anyone who leaked information, whether convicted or not.
Third, Andy Card needs to launch an internal investigation.
10:15 Rep. Henry Waxman is speaking. Right now he is providing background on the Plame-Rove incident.
10:18 It appears, Waxman said, that Rove and others launched a smear campaign against Joe Wilson, and his wife was collateral damage.
Today's New York Times fills in another part of the puzzle. Tenet went through Stephen Hadley to not use the Niger-uranium story, which the administration did anyway. Then Tenet took responsibility for the story. Now we know why, says Waxman.
The White House was eager to claim Rove had no part of the leak. Now they've gone silent. They have not investigated the leak. There is an executive order that requires the White House to conduct an investigation. The President is required to discipline those responsible. But the President has ignored these obligations. There is a special standard for Karl Rove.
Plus, Congress is refusing to do its job. The Republican Congress could hold a hearing next week. For the sake of our armed services, they should do this. We can't subpoena Libby and Rove, says Waxman. They wouldn't come anyway.
10:28 John Conyers is up next.
The only thing I would add, he says, is that 91 members of Congress joined with me on my letter to the President of July 14 to urge the President to require that Karl Rove either come forward to explain his role, or to resign.

Louise Slaughter: Bush campaigned on restoring dignity to the White House. But this administration has been defined by its striking relativism. We can count any number of incidents in which this White House failed to take responsibility.
Time and time again, this administration has been let off the hook by their friends in Congress.
At the worst, treason was committed by high-ranking White House officials.
10: 30 Louise Slaughter asks if Bush or Cheney themselves were involved. Gross abuse of power at the highest levels. I believe the implications of this matter are worse than Watergate, and should get the same level of scrutiny. Sing out Louise!
10:33 Slaughter: America demands more than "no comment."
10:35 Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Washington: Nobody died for Watergate. Yet more than 1700 of our sons and daughters have died in the sands of Iraq. I am hear to pay respect to those soldiers, to the intelligence officers who serve their country. Wilson received a commendation from Bush I for risking his life, last embassy official out of Baghdad. Bush II not so honorable.
What should Bush have done?
No excuses. All we get from the White House are excuses. Didn't use her name? That dog does not hunt.
Second, how about some candor? Just tell us the truth, Mr. President.
Third, any America president owes our ingtelligence service officers to get to the bottom of this. This president has done NOTHING. He sat on his hands and let law enforcement do the job. 
If there are no indictments, we need to change the Intelligence law.
10:41 Larry Johnson, former CIA Analyst: The people represented in this group are Republicans, Democrats, Independents. Issue crosses party lines. No basis of partisan politics. Intelligence officers deserve protection.
Colonel Patrick Lang is here. Made his bones in Vietnam; rose to the top ranks of running all DOD human intelligence service. Knows intelligence inside and out.
Patrick Lang speaks: I feel strongly about this case, not so much on a personal level. This is a structural assault on the ability of the united states to have effective intelligence services.
We're in a war that will go on for a long time. That kind of war involves people who go into subway systems with explosives. To fight these people, you need human beings who can find out what these people are going to do next. We're not doing this very well.
Why aren't we doing better? You need human beings to get other human beings to trust you. It's all about trust. To get information. The moment some person decides to trust you enough, to believe you will protect him, is a magic moment. Almost sacramental. Imposes on the base officers in the states obligations to protect the person in the field is absolute. Not only for morality but for practicality. If a unit believe their superiors will not protect identities, a circle of doubt begins to spread. Intelligence service gets a reputation of not protectings its people and assets, you won't get anything.
In a strange kind of way, the intelligence community is a community of the well informed. They know if the clandestine services of another country will protect them. The Soviets used to be good at this; the KGB never gave up an agent. That's because if they didn't, their sources would dry up.
To disclose the identity of a covert officer for political reasons--this goes around the world. No one will trust you. No possibility of penetrating jihadi groups. Trust gone forever.
10:52 Larry Johnson: I wouldn't be here today if President had upheld his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If he had put word out to stop the political attacks. But we've seen the most malicious smear campaign against Wilson and Valerie Plame. When I see a group of mostly men ganging up on one woman, that to me is a group of bullies.
Political operative went after intelligence operative for political reasons, did terrific damage to the United States.  
It's this lie I want to put to bed that Plame was not undercover--it is inappropriate for Senators and others to go on television and say this incident is insignificant, and mislead American people. People who have said Plame was not really undercover were not in a position to know. Desk jockey? That expression by people on intelligence committees to display such gross ignorance--do they not understand how the system works?
The Senate ingelligence committee fed this flame. I want to speak to the lie that Plame sent Wilson on the trip to Niger. Laughable. Valerie not a manager. When Cheney asked the CIA to look into the Iraq-Niger connection, the briefer goes to office directors, then they talk to divisions. Office deputy sent an email to Plame asking if her husband was available. She said yes. THAT email, responding to the question, is what has been used to claim that Plame sent her husband. 
11:00 Larry Johnson: In 2000 I voted for President Bush because I thought he would bring higher ethical standards. But what did he do? Instead of the President being first and foremost concerned with protecting this country, we have a president who is content to sit by and savage the reputations of people like Plame and Wilson. It would stop in a heartbeat if Bush would stop it.
11:01 Jim Marcinkowski: You're looking at a loss of trust. Can you ever recover? I'm talking about around the world. Coverage of this story --great detail is hard to follow. But some facts are undisputed.
We have irreparable damaged our ability to collect intelligence and protect America. The U.S. govt exposed the identity of a clandestine officer of the CIA. We have continued on the course of self-inflicted wounds, parlor games, at the expense of the safety of the American people.
No country, no hostile group, likes to be infiltrated or spied upon. That's what the CIA does. To operate undercover, you use a ruse. The degree of cover needed varies. When the FBI attempts to infiltrate an organized crime or drug ring, heavier  cover. No matter what the degree of cover, it provides safety. Also protect collection methodologies, also other people in contact with officer.
A case officer has to maintain his cover, because if it's not maintained he's going to expose the people he is working for.
11:09  Jim Marcinkowski: What has suffered irreversible damage is the effectiveness of officers in the field now. How can intelligence operatives by effective if their own government won't protect them?
While deference to legal niceties might satisfy some people, overseas it doesn't work. You can't explain "criminal intent" and "ignorance" to foreign nationals. The only thing that matters is, can you protect me if I do this for you. Legal niceties don't count.
U.S. exposed an operative. Damage continues every single day for two years. Failure to accept responsbility for this damages our intelligence operations every single day.
Each time the leader of a political party opens his mouth to deflect responsibility, the message is clear: Politics trumps national security. Every time time is wasted debating minutae, the damage is done. Prime-time patriots, partisan ninnies, display ignorance calling Plame a paper pusher. Playing partisan politics with "degree" of covert. You can fool the American public with distracting minutae, but you're not fooling people overseas.
Nonresponsibility means, we don't care. Loss of trust, loss of security, loss of agents. Simple message: before you shine up your American flag pin, think about what you are doing to the American people. A true patriot would simply shut up.
Those who take pride in their political ability ought to take responsibility for the continuing damage to our national security.
The message should be that we take safety of intelligence offices seriously. Instead, for two years we've sent a message of partisan bickering.
11:18  David MacMichael, former CIA case officer: My colleagues have emphasized trust and truth as essential. I've been best known as a critic of many aspects of covert operations.
Plausible deniability. There is a built in bias here. I want to emphasize the importance of protecting the individiuals who work in the system. The responsibility of the Congress here is to work to present the truth, and not to allow this system to be used not merely to smear an individual to conceal the truth from the American people. At bottom, what we are dealing with today, in the whole building to the current war, there has been shall we say, less than complete regard for the truth.
11:22 Sen. Byron Dorgan: People risk their lives, give their lives, for America. Mr. Johnson, you've mentioned "black passport," kind of get out of jail free card, provides protection of Geneva Convention. Plame became nonofficial officer, no diplomatic passport. Meant if traveling overseas could be executed or imprisoned. She was someone who had risk in her job. Could you describe, because others have tried to minimalize Plame.

Johnson: She was traveling overseas to meet with individuals. She was working in the area of chemical, biological, nuclear weapons.

Dorgan: Disclosing her allowed other countries to trackback and disclose other operations. Impact substantially beyond what we're discussing.

Johnson: This case, what we're discussing, after every incident like this there is a damage accessment done. That would have been filed with House Intelligence Committee. This was not about outing Valerie Plame. This will have damaged intelligence operations. That goes to heart of some of the threats we face today.

Dorgan: Somewhere there is a damage accessment report? You are saying that would have been made.

Johnson: Yes. 

11:32 Senator Waxman discusses White House history of prevarication on Iraq WMD and intelligence.
Marcinkowski: This hiding behind a criminal investigation doesn't make sense. We have at-will employees. You pick up the phone and you say goodbye.
The fact that nothing's been done. You can be anything short of a criminal. A CIA officer overseas is confronted with this: They aren't doing anything. Sit down with an asset and explain to them why people who breeched security are not in jail, but reporters are.
Waxman: The message is that the White House doesn't care about safety of intelligence operatives; their political lives are what they care about.
Johnson: Sends the wrong message.
11: 35 Lang: I don't think people understand the process. What does the USA mean to people being recruited to provide information. It means something that assets will be protected. When you make that bond, that's what makes good operations. All really good assets were made on the basis of trust. A human phenomenon of deep relationships and trust. Anything you do to make asset believe his fate will hang on the basis of law, that asset will be gone.
When you're collecting in wartime for actionable intelligence, for actions by enemies of the U.S. If you're messing around with the relationships it is a serious matter.
MacMichael: One of the things we have to look at in the congtext of the lead up to the Iraq War -- Ahmed Chalabi. That trust was abused by people with personal and political agenda. Lang is right that this trust relationship is important. Do not forget people have agendas of their own.
11: 45 Marcinkowski: When you talk to someone with information, the issue is security. It's not only security of individuals in that room, but families, children.
Slaughter: I recognize the damage done was profound. I would like to ask in all your years of experience have you ever had anything like this.
Johnson: This is unprecedented. Stone dropper in the water.
Slaughter: Maybe we can infer from that persons who work in the WH are notified as to what they can and cannot say.
Johnson: They are told that. You have the assumption that people in the white house are adults and not a bunch of petulant children. This bunch... fighting over baseball mitts. If they are given access to classified information, there are agreements they must sign.
Slaughter: I don't see any way out from this. ... After Paul O'Neill went on 60 Minutes, some documents were shown, White House screamed "classified!" Cheney demanded investigation.
I think our work is cut out for us. We have to demand that Congress do its job. I have a lot of faith in this prosecutor, but if it comes down to perjury, I don't think that's enough.
11:47 Russ Hold: How unusual is this? How is this different? Would a disclosure like this have been dealt with differently in the past? How might other countries have dealt with this? Congress does have an oversight role.
Johnson: This is unprecedented. The message is, we're going to do nothing. I say this as a registered Republican. I wish Howard Baker was back in the Senate. I wish someone in the Senate would stand up. But last night I saw John McCain making excuses. Where are men of integrity? I expect better behavior out of Republicans.
Lang: In the past, a junior officer disclosing information would be punished. When you get to this level, things stop being unauthorized disclosures. They become press releases. There has to be a way to discipline people. 
Waxman: Compounding this problem is not just that there was a disclosure. Agreement that Mr. Rove signed, there should be consequences. He should be fired. He should be kept from classified information. Instead, Republican put out talking points. They defend Rove, denigrate Plame. Let me go through some of these talking points.
First, that Plame wasn't really covert. Desk job. What is your reaction.
Johnson: It would be one thing if this were junior senator, but we're talking about Republican leadership. This is frightening.
Waxman: Can someone be a covert agent at a desk in Langely Virginia? Do you know for a fact?
Johnson: I was, until the day I walked out.
Marcinkowski: When you look at people in the CIA, you can be covert and still be in the CIA headquarters. There is no harm to that person's cover. It doesn't matter.
What's the matter with laws? I don't know if criminal laws are going to work. The fact that they're putting this out as talking points is just incredible. The fact that the Republican Party is involved should raise concerns. This is hurting us.
Waxman: They say Joe Wilson lied about Cheney sending him to Niger. Wilson didn't say that, but let's say this is right. Will that justify outing of agent.
Lang: No sir. It's a very common thing to operate in a working name outside, the fact that they're living at home, normal neighborhood, has nothing to do with functional cover.
Other point, I don't think it has any relevance whatsoever. I don't see why it makes any difference. He went to Africa. Iraq and Niger, at one time Iraq trade delegation went to Niger, asked about uranium, Niger said no. That's the end of it.
Johnson: The sloppiness of the RNC; they didn't even take time to read the law.
Marcinkowski: Terms--what is the standard of the media of a confidential source? Source that confirms information is more important than source who provides information.
Waxman: This is just a political spat. No. Goes to the heart of going to war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had nuclear capability because he was getting uranium from Niger -- Rice, don't let a smoking gun be a nuclear cloud -- they manipulated evidence that turned out to be not evidence at all, but a hoax. That's what Wilson revealed. They are willing to jeopardize our national security to get back at Wilson. An opportunity for them to blur any responsibiity or accountability.
How many more lives do you throw away if we're there for some ill-conceived reason?
Partisan politics should stop. After 9/11, Democrats and Republicans united behind the President. We all understood going to war in Afghanistan. Seems to me the basic tenet of patriotism is not to mouth the words, we support our troops, but to be there for all the people on the line for our country.
Marcinkowski: I can't debate a senior official in the White HOuse. Once it gets to that level of government, there's nothing you can do about that. When you look at where it came from, that's what's important.
Holt: It's different in the effect down the line:
Marcinkowski: Yes
MacMichael: During Watergate, when the WH made the error in order to employ Howard Hunt, assigned him to a cover company, Mullin & Co. The only consequence was, OK, covers blown, forget your pension.
Lang: I've seen things before, usually by someone immature, misspeaking at a cocktail party. This is different. People in the White House, then hide behind legalisms. Deliberate disclosure at center of government, I never heard of this before.
12:14 Lang: There is a general rule, as you say, a compromise of classified info would be dealt with as you say, officer appointed, investigation, huge investigation if significant disclosure. After, correct the problem, discipline of officer, maybe criminal referral. Other kinds of information people get access to that leads to, go directly to jail.
Inslee: Significance--if leak comes out of White House--more serious?
Lang: Much more serious. This is a system failure. Cracks the level of confidence in the system.
Inslee: I'm told, I don't want to get too far down in the weeds, I'm told the State Department had doubts about the documents, Wilson gave credence to doubts. Eventually Rice had Tenet confirm that it was a mistake to put it in SOTU address. This was a fowlup. Different views?
Does the fact that the WH essentially blown the cover of an agent's husband, does this damper ability of agents to make these calls.
Johnson: It hurts ability of agents to buck the system; intimidation. This intimidation is out there, and it has had a chilling effect.
12:16 Lang: You're talking about the analysis process. Article "Drinking the Kool Aid," hard to escape people understood that there would be penalties if people didn't understand things they way they were expected.
Waxler concludes by quoting Bush I, says it's a shame junior doesn't understand.

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10:04 am | link

Oooo That Smell
A slightly clearer picture of the events leading up to Traitorgate is beginning to emerge. (In fact, the New York Times drew it for you, here.)
Today, Dave Johnston of the New York Times tells us that in 2003 Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had been tasked with the job of preparing the administration's response to criticism of the famous Sixteen Words 

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.

Josh Marshall observes,  "Ever wonder why George Tenet's July 11, 2003 mea culpa about the Niger uranium snafu seemed so protective of the White House? Maybe that was because it was written by Karl Rove and Scooter Libby."

Here's the most significant part of the story, IMO:

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....

... 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.

I can add little to what Steve M says about this:

Oh well -- I guess we can't expect Beltway reporters from the most important newspaper in America to have read possibly the most talked-about political magazine article of the Bush presidency:

"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything -- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."...

Seems to me that Traitorgate is not about a lapse in handling security information. Instead, it reveals "Bush Administration" is nothing but a facade. It's all artifice and posturing and play-pretend, designed to give the impression that the Bush White House is a presidential administration, when in fact it's nothing but a political machine; Tammany Hall gone national.  

It may not have occurred to any of them not to use classified information for political purposes. And policy? Policy is for wonks, and Democrats. The Bushies don't do policy, just politics.  

Back to the Johnston article. I liked this part:

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.

Of this, Susie Madrak asks "Once again, I have a problem with this. How did this advance the story? Why does someone offering a P.R. version of events merit the protection of confidentiality?"

Excellent points. But I'm amused anyone would think that to say Rove and Libby "were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address" would cause the press to put their notepads away and go home. I hope someday to find out who these anonymous sources were so that I might laugh at them.

The other hot story today is from Bloomberg. It appears the stories given Patrick Fitzgerald by Rove and Libby are different from the stories given Patrick Fitzgerald by reporters, including Tim Russert.  Do tell.

Lots of stuff to talk about today, including news that London policy shot a suspected suicide bomber. But I want to attempt to live blog the Democratic joint hearing I mentioned in the last post, so I have to wind this post up and prepare.

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8:27 am | link

thursday, july 21, 2005

John Roberts: Yesterday's News
John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal just reported on Countdown that the famous INS memo was marked "top secret," not just "secret." Plus, the paragraph that mentioned Valerie Plame (by her married name, Wilson) had an additional secrecy designation. No links yet, but I'm sure there will be many links tomorrow.
Over at AMERICAblog, John Aravosis tells us that today Scott McClellan had another interesting encounter with a very pissed-off Washington Press Corp.
Update: Also, some Senate and House Democrats are holding a hearing tomorrow on "the national security implications of disclosing the identity of a covert intelligence officer." The hearings starts at 10, and I'll liveblog IF the hearing is on CSPAN 1 or 2. I'm not sure that's going to be the case, though.  

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8:45 pm | link

Big Yuan
I've been away from news sources for most of the morning and am just catching up with today's bombing incidents in London. I understand these were minor explosions and no one was injured. Let us all be grateful for that.
Also, thank you to alert Maha Reader Erinyes for the head's up on China's decision to "unpeg" the yuan from the dollar. Bloomberg reports that the dollar is already dropping against the Euro as a result of this decision.
I don't even pretend to understand all the ramifications of this news. As of this posting some of my favorite economic experts--e.g., Stirling Newberry, Brad deLong and Billmon--have not weighed in. I'm keenly interested in what they have to say and will update this post when they do. In the meantime, you can read what Hale Stewart--no slouch, either--has to say here.
I love Fafnir.   

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10:38 am | link

Rove Watch Watch
The big, must-be-linked story today focuses on the INS memo that is, apparently, central to whatever case Patrick Fitzgerald is building. And it contains several juicy nuggets of information to chew on.
Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei write in today's Washington Post that the memo clearly indicates information provided about Plame should remain secret.
[The memo] 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. ...
... 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.
The main point of the memo wasn't Plame, but the phony Niger-uranium story:
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.
I like this part: 

The memo was drafted June 10, 2003, for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who asked to be brought up to date on INR's opposition to the White House view that Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa.

The description of Wilson's wife and her role in the Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA was considered "a footnote" in a background paragraph in the memo, according to an official who was aware of the process.

It records that the INR analyst at the meeting opposed Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.

So let's get this straight--by the time of the February 2002 meeting, the State Department had already disproved the Niger-uranium story. Yet this same story popped up in a State of the Union address given eleven months later
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.
...  Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa, including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others. Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reach for comment yesterday.
Rove remained behind in Washington.
 Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, has testified that he learned Plame's name from Novak a few days before telling another reporter she worked at the CIA and played a role in her husband's mission, according to a lawyer familiar with Rove's account. Rove has also testified that the first time he saw the State Department memo was when "people in the special prosecutor's office" showed it to him, said Robert Luskin, his attorney.
It may very well be the case that he never saw the memo, but it's hard to believe Bartlett or Fleischer didn't tell him about it. Or maybe it was Bartlett or Fleischer who told Novak. Or maybe they're all lying about everything.
While you're thinking about that, be sure to read this Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial on the President's shifting standards (via John at AMERICAblog).

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7:17 am | link

wednesday, july 20, 2005

Beamed Up 4:19 pm | link

Rove Watch Watch
In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius reminds us why the Bushies are so desperate to get Rove-Plame out of the headlines.
Look at the polls and you can see that the administration is losing public confidence. An ABC News poll released Monday showed that just 25 percent of the public believes the White House is cooperating fully with Fitzgerald's probe, compared with 47 percent when the investigation began in September 2003. Most striking in the ABC poll was the unanimity of opinion across party lines. Asked if Karl Rove should be fired if he leaked classified information, 71 percent of Republicans said yes. That was just a few points lower than the 75 percent average for all voters.
Bush could stop much of this hemorrhage by announcing that Karl Rove would be on leave from his duties pending the outcome of the investigation. This wouldn't actually stop Rove from playing a role in the Bush Administration, although he'd have to do it from somewhere beside the White House. And it would give Bush some innoculation in case Rove is indicted. It would present an impession that Bush is not trying to protect a wrongdoer.
But that's not what the Bush White House is doing. 

In place of accountability, the Bush White House has embraced the three-pronged strategy of attack, attack, attack. If anyone had forgotten how these trash-the-enemy rules operate, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman gave an astonishing demonstration on Sunday's talk shows. Mehlman had a tough case to argue, given uncontroverted evidence that (a) Rove had been a confirming source for columnist Robert D. Novak's initial story that the man who was making trouble for the White House on its arguments regarding weapons of mass destruction, Joseph Wilson, was married to a CIA employee and (b) Rove was the initial source for Time's Matthew Cooper on information that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA on WMD issues.

I got a kick out of this paragraph:

Mehlman didn't bother to defend the indefensible. He attacked. "Democrat partisans on the Hill have engaged in a smear campaign where they have attacked Karl Rove on the basis of information which actually vindicates and exonerates him, not implicates him." Now, I'm sorry, but that's about as close to the Big Lie as we get in American politics. It's like claiming that the blue sky overhead is actually some other color -- and then challenging the dissenter to prove it's blue. Mehlman's comments have the effect of undermining the shared ground on which government operates.

Yep, pretty much. Speaking of Mehlman, the Madison Capital Times says Ken Mehlman is a liar (via Michael Miller of Public Domain Progress).
Peter Johnson writes in USA Today that Rove won't be out of the headlines for long 

The timing "certainly illustrates that one of the great powers of the presidency is the power to change the subject," Court TV News anchor Fred Graham said. "Bush was back on his heels over Karl Rove, and this announcement wipes Rove off the front pages, for a time."

Probably not for long. A Pew Research study Tuesday showed that half of Americans are paying attention to news reports that Rove may have leaked classified information about a CIA operative. And 58% of those following the reports closely say Rove should resign.

"This is not going to go away," said Harvard media analyst Alex Jones, partially because "the media are too personally involved" now that New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed for refusing to testify in the case.

And the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation continues. Yesterday I linked to a Murray Waas article in TAP saying that Karl Rove could face obstruction of justice charges even if he is not indicted for leaking classified information about Valerie Plame. Waas writes:

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

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

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

Today, Joe at AMERICAblog says,  "The FBI doesn't appreciate those word games. In fact, lying to them is a crime. They take that very, very seriously."

Joshua Frank writes at Dissident Voice:

If this revelation is in fact correct, Rove could be indicted under 18 U.S.C. 1001 for obstruction of justice -- or what us laypeople have aptly coined the "Martha Stewart Crime." Indeed, if Waas's sources are accurate, the Bush administration could be in a world of hurt -- for Rove wouldn't even have to be the actual leaker to be indicted. Fact is, he wouldn't have to have done anything more than what he is already claiming he did.

You may not remember that Karl Rove's industrious predecessor, Martha Stewart, was sent to a quaint little women's prison out in West Virginia for lying to federal agents during their investigation of her alleged insider dabbling. Yep, that's right. Most folks think Stewart was found guilty of some type of trading fraud or securities violation. She wasn't. Stewart simply gave false information to the investigators. And that is exactly what Murray Waas has claimed Rove did at the onset of the fed's criminal probe.

Keep the faith.

Update: Via Josh Marshall--yesterday "11 former intelligence officers delivered a letter to the Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate on the Plame case. See it here." Here's just a taste:

We, the undersigned former U.S. intelligence officers are concerned with the tone and substance of the public debate over the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other members of the media, which exposed her status as an undercover CIA officer. The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was a shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, may have damaged U.S. national security and poses a threat to the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering using human sources. Any breach of the code of confidentiality and cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence workers and their sources.

The Republican National Committee has circulated talking points to supporters to use as part of a coordinated strategy to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. As part of this campaign a common theme is the idea that Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame was not undercover and deserved no protection. The following are four recent examples of this “talking point”:

  • Michael Medved stated on Larry King Live on July 12, 2005, “And let's be honest about this. Mrs. Plame, Mrs. Wilson, had a desk job at Langley. She went back and forth every single day.”
  • Victoria Toensing stated on a Fox News program with John Gibson on July 12, 2005 that, “Well, they weren't taking affirmative measures to protect that identity. They gave her a desk job in Langley. You don't really have somebody deep undercover going back and forth to Langley, where people can see them.”
  • Ed Rodgers, Washington Lobbyist and former Republican official, said on July 13, 2005 on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, “And also I think it is now a matter of established fact that Mrs. Plame was not a protected covert agent, and I don't think there's any meaningful investigation about that.”
  • House majority whip Roy Blunt (R, Mo), on Face the Nation, July 17, 2005, “It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the CIA might have been overzealous in sort of maintaining the kind of topsecret definition on things longer than they needed to. You know, this was a job that the ambassador's wife had that she went to every day. It was a desk job. I think many people in Washington understood that her employment was at the CIA, and she went to that office every day.”

These comments reveal an astonishing ignorance of the intelligence community and the role of cover. The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who “work at a desk” in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected. 

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10:46 am | link

John Roberts: Partisan Hack, the Sequel
Last night, President Bush said he expects a "dignified confirmation process that is conducted with fairness and civility."
Considering the announcement of the nomination was moved up to distract us from Karl Rove ... I doubt that. Bush (or, more likely Rove, who must've had a hand in choosing Roberts) wants a nasty, headline-grabbing fight. The messier, the better. As Chris Bowers says, the White House is using one partisan hack to deflect attention from another.
I don't know if Bush will get the distraction he wants. On the whole, Dems in Congress remain calm about the Roberts appointment. 
A leadership aide said Senate Democrats were divided over whether to go on the attack immediately or take a wait-and-see approach. In their initial reactions, most chose the latter.

"I generally have a policy of reserving judgment on a particular nominee prior to the Judiciary Committee conducting its review," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "I will keep my powder dry until the due diligence is completed."
Further, I don't think Roberts is interesting enough to push Rove out of the headlines for more than a day or two until the hearings begin. And I understand there won't be hearings until late August, at the earliest.
Let me say plainly that this blogger is not going to drop the Rove-Plame story.  I believe I speak for many on that score. And does anyone else have a problem with a White House under criminal investigation nominating a Supreme Court justice who might someday be called upon to hear a case regarding convictions of officials in that same White House? But I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. 
Fom scanning news stories this morning, I get the impression that Democrats will not rubber stamp the appointment. Senator Chuck Schumer in particular seems to expect that questions directed at Roberts about his opinons, personal and legal, must be answered; see video at Crooks and Liars. But IMO it's way too soon to predict exercise of the "nuclear option," one way or another.
The righties will claim that Roberts's personal views don't matter, because he will base his judgments on the Constitution, as if personal views never color interpretation. And as if a whole lotta righties didn't wipe their butts with the Constitution during the recent Terri Schiavo wars. I'll have more to say about that in future posts. 
Predictably, much of the "liberal" (snort) media is prepared to coronate Roberts this morning. An editorial in the once-respectable Washington Post says,
IN NOMINATING Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court, President Bush picked a man of substance and seriousness. Judge Roberts has served only briefly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, but he was previously among the country's best-regarded appellate lawyers, both in private practice and as deputy solicitor general during the administration of George H.W. Bush. Judge Roberts is a conservative, but he has never been an ideological crusader; he has admirers among liberals. If confirmed as the successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, it is likely that he will shift the Supreme Court toward the right. But his nomination is not a provocation to Democrats -- as some other possible nominees would have been. Mr. Bush deserves credit for selecting someone with the potential to attract broad support.
And at John Roberts's birth, lo; MOSES himself (or was it Justice Roger Taney?) appeared, wearing sparkly gold raiment, and he sayeth unto the startled delivery room staff, "This man will I choose to lead my people toward the promised land of strict construction and constitutional originalism, or whatever they're calling bonehead right-wing opinions these days." Whereupon MOSES (or Roger) disappeared in a clap of thunder, and verily the attending nurse ran shrieking down the hall and the obstetrician then and there swore off amphetamines.
Or something like that.
The truth appears to be a lot more mundane, at least on the surface. Roberts is a pleasant-looking white guy who wears suits well. Smoke does not billow out of his ears, nor does he have horns and a forked tail. Some leftie bloggers are saying the nomination could have been worse. Yeah, like ebola is worse than cholera.
Some background on John Roberts, from Katharine Mieszkowski at Salon:

John G. Roberts, 50, now serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where he's been since 2003. It took him three nominations and more than a decade to get there. He was originally nominated for the court in 1992 by the first President Bush, and again by George W. Bush in 2001; both nominations died in the Senate. Roberts was renominated in January 2003 by President Bush and joined the court in May of that year.

His two-year stint on the D.C. court offers a short record of decisions to scrutinize. But in his career as a litigator, Roberts argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, both as a lawyer in private practice and as one working for the government under Republican administrations. He won 25 of them.

Here, I think, is the most interesting part:

Roberts was a member of "Lawyers for Bush-Cheney" and contributed $1,000 to the first Bush-Cheney election campaign in 2000. His professional ties to the Bush family go back a generation; he served under Kenneth Starr as the principal deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. He also campaigned for that administration's election, as a member of the executive committee of the DC Lawyers for Bush-Quayle '88. Before that, he was the deputy White House counsel for four years in the Reagan administration.

When not serving in Republican administrations -- or contributing money to them -- he's been in practice as a corporate lawyer at Hogan & Hartson, the largest law firm based in D.C., where he was paid more than $1 million in 2003, the last year he worked there. His clients ranged from the states of Hawaii and Alaska to the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Pulte Corp. He successfully represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing in a case before the Supreme Court, where he argued that a worker with carpal tunnel syndrome was not protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, even though she was fired for an injury acquired on the job. He also served as a lobbyist on behalf of the Western Peanut Growers Association and the Panhandle Peanut Growers Association. A partner at Hogan & Hartson for 10 years, his net worth is more than $3.7 million, according to financial disclosure statements.

Roberts is also a member of the influential Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies,a group of conservatives and libertarians, which holds that the legal professional is currently dominated by "a form of orthodox liberal ideology."

Like I said last night, he's a loyal water-carrier for the GOP. I don't doubt that he's a smart guy and knows law, but I doubt those attributes are what got him the nomination.
This may have put him at the head of Bush's list --

Last Friday, the court on which Roberts now serves decided a case that supports the Bush administration's plans to use secretive military tribunals in the war on terror, which have provoked an international outcry from civil libertarians and human rights advocates. The three-judge panel, including Roberts, ruled unanimously that tribunals set up to try terrorism suspects for war crimes, in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, were authorized under federal law. And it found that any rights accorded by the Geneva Convention to prisoners of war did not apply to suspected al-Qaida members or so-called enemy combatants. The two lawyers representing Hamdan in the case called the decision "contrary to 200 years of constitutional law." It was the first major opinion in which Roberts concurred -- and, ironically, could be tested in the Supreme Court during its next term.

And the White House said, how might I reward thee? Let me count the ways ...

A number of Roberts's other decision in the areas of civil liberties and environmental law are downright frightening, but we have plenty of time to talk about those little bombs before the hearings.

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7:21 am | link

tuesday, july 19, 2005

John Roberts: Partisan Hack
I'm sure I'll have more to say tomorrow, but what concerns me (and John Aravosis as well; see "John Roberts: Partisan Hack" at AMERICAblog) is that the nomination of John Roberts is all about politics and not at all about finding the right person to shoulder the responsibility of a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court.
First, it's obvious the nomination was moved up to pull attention away from Karl Rove. But the picture of John Roberts that's emerging is of a loyal water-carrier for the GOP rather than a brilliant jurist. I understand (and I'll be checking on this tomorrow; it's a bit late to launch a research project) that corporate lawyer Roberts was involved in the 2000 Florida recount, for example.
John says, 
Roberts donated to Bush's election, and Bush seems to be treating the Supreme Court like it's France - a plum assignment for your buddy who helped you out in the last campaign. The Supreme Court isn't France, and being a Supreme Court justice is a bit more important than being an ambassador. I'm just not sure Bush gets the difference.
I'm sure more details will float to the surface by tomorrow. 

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11:03 pm | link

A War on Two Fronts
The SCOTUS nominee, John Roberts, sounds like a nasty piece of work. The challenge for us is to continue to keep Rove-Plame and Downing Street issues out in the daylight while we pursue whatever course we decide to pursue regarding Roberts.
More information on John Roberts from Hunter. John at AMERICAblog provides reactions: Howard Dean on John Roberts, The Nation on John Roberts, Planned Parenthood on John Roberts, and several other posts (read down).

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9:48 pm | link

Like I Said

The GOP and its hack reporter friends have attempted to obscure this reality by citing the report undertaken by Lord Butler at Tony Blair's request, which found that British assertions of Iraqi efforts to acquire Nigerian uranium were well-founded. This theory ignores several inconvenient facts. First and foremost, it's now clear that whatever Iraq may or may not have tried to do in 1999, it didn't actually get anywhere near building a nuclear bomb. Second, given the actual state of Iraq's nuclear program at the time, there's no reason to think uranium yellowcake would have been useful for doing anything, as Iraq had no capacity to transform it into a usable weapon. Third, the Iraq Survey Group, appointed by the president to review Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs stated last year that it had "not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material." Fourth, the International Atomic Energy Agency responded to the Butler report by asking the British government to provide it with the non-forgery-based evidence for the story, which the Brits have failed to do. Indeed, it seems that the only British sources were the forgery, and reports from other intelligence services that were, in turn, based on the same forgery.

All that aside, no officials anywhere, including the authors of the Butler report, deny the basic point that the Niger uranium memo was forged. What's more, the forgery was not especially hard to detect because there was not one forgery but two, the second of which was especially crude.

Clip & save & shove in the face of the next rightie who cites the Butler Report.
But who forged the forgeries? Hmmm.

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4:55 pm | link

Bring Up the Artillery
I just heard Bush is going to announce his Supreme Court nomination at 9 pm tonight. Fuses will be lit by 9:01.
I see that Billmon is calling for a cavalry charge. I'm sure we'll have the infantry moving by tomorrow.
Steve M looks at two possible nominees, Edith Jones and Edith Clement.
Update: Some on the Right are already sounding off against Clement. She's too moderate for them. Yeah, I know, Attilla the Hun would be too moderate for them. But according to this guy, Clement has said in the past that she would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is not to say that we won't find something else about Clement that's objectionable, but maybe it could be worse.
Jones, on the other hand, is sometimes referred to as the "Female Scalia." Doesn't sound good.
Update update: Nathan Newman on Edith Clement's dark side
Update update update: Trapper John and Armando think Bush might nominate Alberto Gonzales after all. Kos thinks rumors of a Clement nomination could be a red herring. 
Update x 4: ABC reports it won't be Clement.       

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3:20 pm | link

Happy Blogosphere Day!
I bet you didn't even know that today was Blogosphere Day, huh? Well, I forgot, too. But Bob Brigham didn't forget. And Bob says we should celebrate by deploying (I love that word; it's so...military) our forces in support of  Paul Hackett, a good guy running in a special election for Ohio's second congressional seat.
Not only is Paul Hackett a good progressive candidate, he's also Major Paul Hackett, U.S. Marines. And, although he opposed the war from the beginning, he's an Iraq War vet.
And Bob says that if Paul loses, he goes back to Iraq.
Paul's opponent is a right-wing aparatchik caught in a late-breaking scandal. Like we need more of that type in Washington.
An all-out effort could send Paul Hackett to Washington. To join in the deployment, click here.

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2:58 pm | link

Fighting Terrorism
Every now and then, after I've badmouthed the Iraq War as a means for fighting terrorism, some rightie will drop by and challenge me to come up with an alternative to fighting the Iraq war.
Considering that a number of indicators suggest the Iraq war is inspiring more terrorism, I'd say one good alternative is not fighting the Iraq War. But, of course, that just takes us back to where we were on September 10, 2001.
What, pray tell, is the Right's plan to fight terrorism? I think I spotted it today on Daou Report --
"Let’s place the Wilson/Plame/Rove/Bush affair within the context of the threat this country faces from Islamists. Compare it to the meaning of the London bombings. Compare it to Zarqawi’s ratcheting-up of the Iraq suicide bomb campaign. When compared to the War on Islamist Terror, the Plame mess is laughably inconsequential except to the floundering Left, which sees it as an opportunity to "get" Rove and possibly Bush. This nasty bit of nonsense is, to the Left, far more important than killing as many jihadists as possible before they kill us."
As Armondo wrote recently, "the strategy of taking out state sponsors of terrorism  and the so-called 'flypaper' strategy are really just 'feel good' vengeance strategies." And ineffectual feel good vengeance strategies, at that; worldwide terrorism is rising, and rising fast. 
(According to some possibly accurate sources I found by googling, there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today. Do we want to antagonize all of them? I think not.)  

The problem with the Fighting Keyboardist take on terrorism in the wake of the Iraq War is that the steadfast belief about the phenomenon, in order to maintain any sort of logical coherency in their position, is that terrorism is simply a strange brand of unmotivated evil. It's a version of the zombie tale - strange brown men come into contact with radicalized ideologies that exist neither as good or evil, but instead as some sort of transient pathogen, and with enough exposure, find the evil that lurks within the hearts of all men triggered, and themselves turned into the grisly, gruesome beast known as...TERRORIST.

This mindset relies on the perversion of moral standards to enforce them, not surprising for a movement that's also sharing ideological mindspace with the Christian Right. In order to hold these murderers to a dehumanized standard of depravity, conscious choice and logic are stripped from them. It helps in the "gotta kill 'em all" sense, because honestly, who doesn't want to blow the head off the monster at the end of the movie and save all the big-breasted co-eds? (Al-Qaeda's coming for you, Sigma Theta Delta!)

The futility of this mindset comes in the question of how to stop or stymie terrorism. If terrorism ceases being the means to and end, and becomes the end itself (zombies, after all, don't eat people in order to find the perfect recipe for sauteed spleen, or to conquer the world; they eat because they're mindless ravenous drones), then the only way to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world is to kill terrorists. This leaves us with a threat that consistently discusses the world in geopolitical, cultural and moral tones, and a response that pretends it's all moaning gibberish because we just want it to be gone.

As I wrote a few days ago, righties fly into a rage if you suggest past U.S. policies might be even partly at fault for the rise of Islamic terrorism. If we cede even a patch of the absolute moral high ground it weakens the perception that we have a right to do whatever we want to them.
The Right believes its lumbering, dinosaur policies for fighting terrorism are the only legitimate policies. The weird notion that terrorism can somehow be contained in a fixed geographic location by means of military action (the "flypaper theory"; the "central front") or that taking out "state sponsors" will cause terrorists to give up and go home reveals a mindset stuck in John Wayne movies.
It should be obvious that fighting terrorism should mean, well, fighting terrorism. And to do that, we must understand what terrorism actually is, and what fuels it, and how it operates. Righties seem almost willfully determined to not understand terrorism.  They disparage any attempt to understand terrorism and terrorists (in order to, perhaps, kill it at the roots) as sending terrorists to get therapy. They thump their chests and claim liberals just don't get it. And all the while they remain in control of terrorism policies, terrorism spreads and danger grows.
However, even though I think the Bush approach is stupid and counterproductive, at least I know what it is. From the Dems (and Republican moderates) we've gotten various proposals to do a better job guarding ports and commuter trains. Now, I approve such measures, but we need a little more.
I hope General Wesley Clark adds some more detail to his recent USA Today op ed on antiterrorism strategy, because I think he's right. "Relentless pressure by the CIA, Special Forces and many other national intelligence and police efforts has made the old, centralized structure of al-Qaeda unworkable," says the General. "And we need to keep up the pressure. ... [but] To win this war, we must defeat the ideology of terrorism, depriving angry young people of their ability to justify their hateful actions in the name of Allah."
That's not going to be easy, and it won't happen over night. Iraq is making that task harder, not easier. Threats to "bomb Mecca" probably don't help, either.
However, I think the basics of a sensible policy are there, and all it needs is for the Dems to get together and figure out how to package and market it to the American people. I hate it that packaging and marketing is necessary, but I'm 'fraid it is. But I think the American people are about ready to be shown an alternative to Bush's War.  
Sortakinda related: E.J. Dionne, "In Defense of Success" 
Spotted at Eschaton: Bush was for firing leakers before he was against it.
Update: Eric Alterman.

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12:01 pm | link

Trees and Forests
No new Rove leakettes appeared overnight, so it seems a good time to step back and look at bigger pictures. As Frank Rich recently reminded us,
This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
The Left Blogosphere has been pushing the Rove-Plame story for close to a couple of years. But as sweet as a Rove perp walk would be, I believe I speak for most when I say this effort is not about either Rove or Plame. Rove-Plame is just one thread in the fabric of deceit that sold the Iraq War to the American people. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep pulling on that thread, the whole cloth will unravel.
For example, as Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe writes, the broader investigation appears to be moving tantalizingly close to the Big Dick himself 

THE NEWS that Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was the second possible source in the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent to Time magazine elevates the scandal to a whole new level. It is bad enough for Karl Rove to be accused of being a leaker, since he is President Bush’s chief political strategist.

But if Time’s story holds, I. Lewis Libby’s involvement represents an even more insidious abuse of power. ...

Jackson goes on to describe how PNAC Gang--Cheney, Libby,  Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, etc.--came out of the Bush I Administration longing for a "preemptive" war against possible threats. 
And, IMO, they remained pathologically fixated on Saddam Hussein as the chief threat, to the exclusion of all others.
Jackson describes how the Bush White House prepared to market the invasion of Iraq:

Libby was in the thick of whipping up fear over the thinnest of evidence. The level to which Libby and Cheney stooped to get their war was highlighted by the momentous presentation of Saddam’s ‘‘threat’’ before the United Nations Security Council by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. ...

... It was Cheney’s staff who wrote the first draft of Powell’s UN speech. It was Libby who suggested, in strategy meetings at the White House, playing up every possible, conceivable threat of Saddam — with the emphasis on the word ‘‘conceive.’’

A US News and World Report story in the summer of 2003 quoted a senior administration official as saying Libby’s presentation ‘‘was over the top and ran the gamut from Al Qaeda to human rights to weapons of mass destruction. They were unsubstantiated assertions, in my view.’’

Powell, according to both US News and Vanity Fair, was so irritated by Libby’s hodgepodge of unsubstantiated facts that he threw documents into the air and said, ‘‘I’m not reading this. This is bull ...’’

Libby, whose nickname is Scooter, was particularly unhappy that Powell had thrown out sections of the presentation that would have attempted to link Al Qaeda to Saddam, including a discredited report that top 9/11 Al Qaeda airline hijacker Mohamed Atta had a meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. According to Vanity Fair, ‘‘Cheney’s office made one last ditch effort to persuade Powell to link Saddam and Al Qaeda and to slip the Prague story back into the speech. Only moments before Powell began speaking, Scooter Libby tried unsuccessfully to reach [Larry] Wilkerson by phone. Powell’s staff chief, by then inside the Security Council chamber, declined to take the call. ‘Scooter,’ said one State Department aide, ‘wasn’t happy.’’’

According to Vanity Fair, Cheney himself urged Powell to go ahead and stake his national popularity on the nonexistent evidence by saying to Powell, ‘‘Your poll numbers are in the 70s. You can afford to lose a few points.’’

I assume Scooter and the Dickster believed their glorious little war would be so, well, glorious, and popular, that they'd never be called upon to substantiate their claims. Once the glory kicked in, no one would ask questions.
And, had they not turned the postwar planning over to Mrs. Jones's third grade class at Garfield Elementary, they probably would've been right. But after more than two years of escalating violence and one screwup after another, some people are having second thoughts.
Yesterday Terry Neal of the Washington Post wrote that more and more Americans believe the Iraq War is not making us safer 

Americans are willing to spare no expense to ensure their safety. Thus the bill for the war in Iraq, which is soaring well into the $200 billions, would not be an issue at all if most people felt the essential policy -- making America safer -- was being met.

But apparently, fewer and fewer Americans believe this is the case. And this is becoming an even greater problem for President Bush, whose reputation has taken a hit. In the latest Gallup poll, taken shortly after terrorists struck London this month, the number of people who say the war in Iraq was not worth it climbed to 53 percent (compared to 44 percent who believe it was). Perhaps more significantly, only 40 percent of Americans think the war has made the United States safer from terrorism, compared to 52 percent who believe it has made America less safe.

The Bush Regime has done its best to shield us from ugly realities--e.g., hiding coffins from photographers, sneaking the wounded into stateside hospitals at night. Because the violence is so extreme, journalists covering the war lack the ability to move around the country that they had in Vietnam. And the hard core Right continues to believe that wonderful things are happening in Iraq, and if we're not hearing about them it's because journalists are in cahoots with Noam Chomsky to destroy America. 
Still, I think the ugliness and waste and futility of Iraq may be growing in the public mind. The righties continue to spew disinformation at a furious pace, claiming that Joe Wilson lied and that Saddam Hussein did too try to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.  I don't believe these claims are true. But, as I explained last week (here and here), by the time of the 2003 State of the Union speech and the mid-March invasion, the IAEA inspectors were reasonably confident Saddam was no nuclear threat to anyone. And, of course, since 2002 the CIA had been warning the White House that evidence for the Niger story was flimsy.
Yet the Bushies continued to repeat the Niger story. That's because the story's entire value was as a marketing tool. It never really mattered to the Bushies whether it was true or not.
The righties' continued attempts to defend the White House with minutae about British reports and the supposed activities of Iraqi officials in the late 1990s is looking, increasingly, ridiculous. As I've said before, they not only can't see the forest for the trees; they can't see the trees for the leaves.
But I think we leftie bloggers should keep in mind that Rove-Plame might backfire on us. We've got a lot riding on the hope that Patrick Fitzgerald will obtain indictments that will lead to a nice, messy trial. If there are no indictments, the wall of protection around the White House will be undented and our credibility on future issues will be questioned. And, as I understand it, in order to obtain indictments Fitzgerald will have to establish evidence that Rove and/or Libby had learned from a classified source that Plame was a covert agent when they talked to reporters about her. My understanding is that if they didn't know she was covert, or if they got the information about her status from a non-classified source (e.g., Judy Miller), then they would not be in violation of the  Intelligence Identities Protection Act. (However, there are other laws beside the IIP that might be in play here, as Mark Kleiman explains.)
If there are no indictments, our flapping around and saying but it was wrong anyway will be ineffectual. No matter how solid our case, the rightie noise machine will drown us out.
For this reason, I believe it's important not to get so caught up in the little details and leakettes that we forget the larger context of the Rove-Plame scandal. That context will still be vital even if the Fitzgerald investigation comes to naught.
That being said, I can't resist this one... Steve M writes,
The question that keeps coming to my mind is this: Is it possible that the Rove administration really doesn't consider Bush indispensable?

I ask because a number of the recent leaks cast the administration in a bad light. This is one example -- it suggests that the president's press secretary could have had something to do with revealing Plame's identity. But virtually all the recent leaks are good for Rove: They sow confusion about his role and would be extremely helpful if he were brought to trial.
Good point. What's it telling us? That Bush is just Rove's hand puppet? That protecting Bush is less important than protecting someone else (hint: rhymes with prick)?  
Update update: Per Josh Marshall, the INS memo likely was seen by a great many people in the administration before the Novak-Rove phone call.   

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7:50 am | link

monday, july 18, 2005

Rove Watch Watch
Whether Karl Rove or Scooter Libby violated a law is a matter for courts to decide. No matter how obsessively we bloggers glean news stories for scraps of information, we don't know what we don't know, and we don't know if all the scraps are accurate, either. We don't have indictments yet, for pete's sake, so talk of conviction or exoneration is a tad premature. I assume that anyone who claims to know how it's going to fall is talking out of his posterior. 
On the other hand, responding to the obvious disinformation is getting overwhelming. Just take a peak at Media Matters for examples. Some false reports are the result of sloppy news reporting, I suspect, but I doubt they all are.
And, the hard core Right will believe whatever it wants to believe, no matter how flimsy the evidence. A bit of misinformation left in Mahablog comments recently apparently originated in a Power Line comment that misquoted Andrea Mitchell; see Cy Guy's correction here
This illustrates exactly the point I was trying to make in the last post. I write a lengthy post with copious links to several sources documenting that Valerie Plame was still covert when Bob Novak wrote about her. And the Kool-Aider with nothing but an unsourced rumor in his head comes along and tells me I'm misinformed. So typical.
Charges and countercharges are flying so thick and fast on the Blogosphere that Peter Daou has set up a special Daou Report page just for Rove rants.
Yet hope remains; Garance Franke-Rute reports at TAPPED that the public is skeptical; only a quarter of persons polled recently by ABC News believe the White House is cooperating fully with the investigation. It's that ol' stonewalling thing once again.
Well, on to Rove Watch Watch ... this Los Angeles Times story, which Digby condenses, provides a clearer picture that Rove was targeting Wilson purely for political reasons.
A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove responded: "He's a Democrat." Rove then cited Wilson's campaign donations, which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said.
A follow up to this post on the top secret memo that was spotted on Air Force One in July 2003:
Activities aboard Air Force One are also of interest to prosecutors -- including the possible distribution of a State Department memo that mentioned Wilson's wife. Prosecutors are seeking to find out whether anyone who saw the memo learned Plame's identity and passed the information to journalists. Telephone logs from the presidential aircraft have been subpoenaed; among those aboard was former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who has testified before the grand jury.  
A Bloomberg story suggests it was Ari Fleischer, not Colin Powell, trotting around the plane in view of reporters with the top secret memo in his hands. Hmmm.   
Just posted at TAP: Joe Conason, "Rove on the Ropes." I haven't read it yet, but Joe C. usually does a good job.
Stirling Newberry analyzes party messages and talking points in "All the Cross-Roves" at BOP News.
Steve Soto comments on Bush's backing away from his earlier promise to fire White House staff who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Now that we know for sure Rove and Libby did leak her name, Bush has raised the bar; now no one will get canned until someone has been found "committing a crime."
Does this mean that, if certain persons are indicted, they'll continue to do their jobs and keep their security clearances until found guilty in court? This question is being discussed at TPM Cafe. See also Billmon ("But who's going to answer the phones?"
And Amy Sullivan says, "Flippity flop!"
Kevin Drum writes about why the Bush White House was so determined to claim Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program, even thought the evidence was, um, thin.

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3:32 pm | link

Public Enemy Number One: The Right
No matter what the righties say, Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the time Bob Novak wrote his July 14, 2003 column. This is a solid fact. There are many details about Traitorgate that can be disputed, but this is not one of them.

"I'm beyond disgusted," a CIA official said last week. I am especially angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent."

... In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services were known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries.

The fact is that the cavalier outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative has done incalculable damage to this nation's intelligence efforts. And the fact that the Right brushes off Plame's outing as a minor consideration exemplifies why it's the Right, not the Left, that has lost its patriotism. On the Right, love of country has been replaced by blind partisan loyalty and a cult of personality surrounding George W. Bush. 
In fact, I think it can be argued that the right-wing extremism is a bigger danger to the future of our nation than Islamic extremism. Terrorists can kill citizens and destroy buildings and infrastructure, but extremists on the Right are well positioned--through deceit and abuse of power--to destroy the heritage of republican government that has sustained this nation for nearly 230 years.
Clearly, the Right places its own power above the security of America. Consider: 

But even if Rove skates past any legal trouble, that still leaves the question of means and ends. Although Democrats deplored what they viewed as an Administration attempt to silence its critics, to the intelligence community what mattered was that in the course of political warfare, a spy had been sacrificed. Plame was one of the rare operatives to become an NOC, that is, a CIA employee who operates under nonofficial cover. Such officers, who may pose as businesspeople or students, have no diplomatic immunity and so are much more vulnerable if caught spying. They often work abroad for U.S. companies that have secret agreements with the CIA to take them in as employees or for front companies the agency sets up. A former CIA station chief tells TIME that it can cost the agency anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million to establish an NOC overseas, depending on how deep and extensive the cover must be.

CIA sources say Plame held highly sensitive jobs during the past two decades. In the late 1990s she was serving as an NOC, working as an analyst with Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a CIA front company that has been shut down. ... But in 1997 she moved back to Washington. The New York Times has reported that the CIA feared that her cover had been blown to the Russians by double agent Aldrich Ames. Her marriage to a high-profile former diplomat further limited her ability to fly under the radar. She began working at CIA headquarters in Langley, assigned to the directorate of operations, the CIA'S clandestine branch that manages its human spying overseas and is one of the agency's most secretive directorates. ...

... But while she may no longer have been a clandestine operative, she was still under protected status. A U.S. official told TIME that Plame was indeed considered covert for the purposes of the Intelligence Identities Protection law. And even if the leak was not illegal, intelligence officials argue, it is not defensible. "I'm beyond disgusted," a CIA official said last week. I am especially angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent."

... In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services were known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries.

 Outside of a James Bond movie, spies rarely steal secrets themselves; they recruit foreigners to do it for them. That often means bribing a government official to break his country's laws and pass state secrets to the CIA. "It becomes extremely hard if you're working overseas and recruiting [foreign] agents knowing that some sloth up in the Executive Branch for political reasons can reveal your identity," says Jim Marcinkowski, who served four years in the agency and is now the deputy city attorney for Royal Oak, Mich. "Certainly this kind of information travels around the world very quickly. And it raises the level of fear of coming in contact with the United States for any reason." [David Bjerklie, Nancy Gibbs, "The Rove Problem," Time, July 17, 2005 (July 25 issue)] 

To get an idea of how destructive, I talked to Melissa Mahle, a former CIA covert operative turned author whose career parallels Plame's. She explained what happens when someone's cover is blown. It isn't pretty, especially when, like Plame, you have been under "nonofficial cover" (working for a phony front company or nonprofit), which is more sensitive than "official cover" (pretending to work for another government agency). The GOP's spinners are making it seem that because Plame had a desk job in Langley at the time she was outed, she wasn't truly undercover. As Mahle says, that reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. Being outed doesn't just waste millions of taxpayer dollars; it compromises hundreds of other people in the field you may have worked with in the past. [Jonathan Alter, "Why the Leak Probe Matters," Newsweek, July 25, 2005]
Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA.  I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985.  All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies.  We had official cover.  That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport.  If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.
 A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer.  That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport.  If caught in that status she would have been executed.

The lies by people like Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, and P. J. O'Rourke insist that Valerie was nothing, just a desk jockey.  Yet, until Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world.  When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her. [Larry Johnson, "The Big Lie About Valerie Plame," TPM Cafe, July 13, 2005]
I want to repeat something Larry Johnson wrote: Valerie Plame "agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport.  If caught in that status she would have been executed."
For years, she risked her life for her country. I just want to be sure you noticed that.
Incredibly, the righties persist in arguing that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium from Africa, so Joe Wilson lied. Mark Steyn:
 In fact, the only lying sonafabitch turned out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the earth except Wilson, the White House press corps and the crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don't take my word for it; it's the conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler's report in the United Kingdom, MI6, French intelligence, other European services -- and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson's own briefing to them. Why Yellowcake Joe then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what he'd been told by senior figures from Major Wanke's regime in Niger is known only to him.
It doesn't matter how many times you demolish rightie "facts"; if they are determined to believe something they will believe it, and reality be damned. (See also the GOP disinformation machine at work.) Many leftie bloggers have addressed the claims in the paragraph above, but Steve Soto Eriposte at The Left Coaster may be most thorough; see, for example, this, and for more detail, this. I recently wrote a bit about the "yellowcake" issue more generally, here.
As Mark Kleiman observed, "The CIA committed the unforgivable sin of not supplying adequate quantities of false information about what proved to be Iraq's nonexistent WMD program." Also, be sure to read Mark's explanation of  the Nondisclosure Agreement (SF 312) that Rove and others in the Bush Administration must have signed and clearly have violated. This is a facet of Traitorgate that the establishment press has covered very little, but it could be significant. 
What frustrates me most is the way the Right attributes the Left's concerns--and, yes, anger--about the Bush Aministration to simple partisanship or personal character flaws. You can lay out a detailed and documented case for why the Bush Administration's policies are wrong, and righties brush this off with "you're just a Bush hater" or "you wouldn't object if Bush were a Democrat." This weekend I've been called "vituperative," "bitter," and a few worse things to explain away my opposition to the Bush Administration; it's just in my nature to be cranky. That's the only reason I don't like Bush.
Just call me Cassandra.  
But the mild and reasonable Right, at the very least, has its priorities skewed. In Rightieworld, compromising our global undercover intelligence operations ain't no big thing, but don't you dare question President Bush, even when he's made an obvious, um, mistake.
That's why righties frighten me. And that's why I say they are a bigger danger to America than terrorists.

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7:27 am | link

sunday, july 17, 2005

Sweet 10:47 pm | link

Public Notice 2
It has come to my attention that I'm being robustly vilified on some parts of the Right Blogosphere today because of the Washington Post Sunday Magazine article.
I fully expected this and had told myself I would ignore it, which I mostly have. I know where some of it is and am not going there. But as a few people with active imaginations have managed to extract a number of falsehoods out of a mostly factual article, I feel compelled to set one thing straight.
I am not wealthy. I have an extremely non-extravagant lifestyle, live in a modest apartment, and drive an 8-year-old car. Last year I decided to drop out of the workforce for a time, which I was able to do because of a modest inheritance I received after my mother died in November 2003. I'd been working full time for years without being able to take a proper vacation (unlike schoolteachers, I never got the summer off, and for years I had to use up my few little vacation days on child-related emergencies), I was exhausted and burned out, and I had to quit for a while. I wrote a little book (see right-hand column) and am finishing up another one, but eventually I'm going to have to drop back into the work force.
(If anybody reading this needs to hire a writer, let me know.)
I have not seen any personal attacks on Mrs. Newmark coming out of the Left Blogosphere, which is a good thing, but also not surprising. I've believed for years that the Right is far nastier and more vicious than the Left, and today I believe my point is proved.
So let me repeat my request that everyone treat Mrs. Newmark respectfully, and also remind readers that any personal smears, ad hominem, or flame bait left in the comments of this blog will be deleted.

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3:13 pm | link

Rove Watch Watch Update 2
I'm not sure what to make of an article by Howard Fineman at Newsweek, "Rove at War." First, I spotted a couple of errors; Fineman repeats the false claim that Joe Wilson said Dick Cheney had sent him to Africa, and he has the famous Novak/Rove phone call taking place on July 9 rather than July 8. Also, the writing is a tad, um, turgid.
Still, there is this interesting section:

It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration. In the months after 9/11, the Republican National Committee, a part of Rove's empire, had sent out a fund-raising letter that showed the president aboard Air Force One in the hours after the attack. Democrats howled, but that was the Bush Rove was selling in the re-election campaign: commander in chief. Now Wilson was getting in the way of that glorious story, essentially accusing the administration of having blundered or lied the country into war.

How do you publicly counter a guy like that? As "senior adviser," Rove would be involved in finding out. Technically, Rove was in charge of politics, not "communications." But, as he saw it, the two were one and the same—and he used his heavyweight status to push the message machine run by his Texas protegé and friend, Dan Bartlett. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was sent out to trash the Wilson op-ed. "Zero, nada, nothing new here," he said. Then, on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip. How did the spin doctors know to cast that lure? One possible explanation: some aides may have read the State Department intel memo, which Powell had brought with him aboard Air Force One.

See this for more about the significance of the memo.

Meanwhile, in transatlantic secure phone calls, the message machinery focused on a crucial topic: who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words." Donald Rumsfeld was pressed into duty, as was Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier. She was on the Africa trip with the president, though, and wouldn't be getting back until Saturday night. To allow her to prepare on the long flight home to D.C., White House officials assembled a briefing book, which they faxed to the Bush entourage in Africa. The book was primarily prepared by her National Security Council staff. It contained classified information—perhaps including all or part of the memo from State. The entire binder was labeled TOP SECRET. ...

 ... no one in the administration seems to have noticed the irony—or the legal danger—in assembling a TOP SECRET briefing book as guidance for the Sunday talk shows. Exactly what papers with what classifications were floating around on Air Force One? Who, if anyone, was dipping into them for info about the Wilson trip?

They don't call 'em the "Mayberry Machiavellis" for nothin'.
BTW, can faxes be hacked?
I think it's possible Fineman is right that Rove and others in the Bush White House didn't think twice about exploiting and exposing top secret national security information for political purposes. I've believed all along that BushCo has no sense of honor or decency. They most certainly do not take their responsibilities to the United States and its citizens seriously. All that's important to them is power and cronyism.
I didn't watch any of the Sunday political programs, but I take it from Al Rogers at Kos that nothin' new was revealed. At least the story is getting covered.
Jonathan Alter at Newsweek writes "Why the Leak Probe Matters."
A real leader wouldn't hide behind Clintonian legalisms like "I don't want to prejudge." Even if the disclosure was unintentional and no law was broken, Rove's confirmed conduct—talking casually to two reporters without security clearances about a CIA operative—was dangerous and wrong.... The frantic efforts of the GOP attack machine to change the subject to Wilson shows how scared Republicans are that the master of their universe will be held accountable for Rove's destructive carelessness.

To get an idea of how destructive, I talked to Melissa Mahle, a former CIA covert operative turned author whose career parallels Plame's. She explained what happens when someone's cover is blown. It isn't pretty, especially when, like Plame, you have been under "nonofficial cover" (working for a phony front company or nonprofit), which is more sensitive than "official cover" (pretending to work for another government agency). The GOP's spinners are making it seem that because Plame had a desk job in Langley at the time she was outed, she wasn't truly undercover. As Mahle says, that reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. Being outed doesn't just waste millions of taxpayer dollars; it compromises hundreds of other people in the field you may have worked with in the past.

If Bush isn't a hypocrite on national security, he needs, at a minimum, to yank Rove's security clearance. "Whether you do it [discuss the identity of CIA operatives] intentionally or unintentionally, you have not met the requirements of that security clearance," Mahle told me.

The bigger question is what this scandal does to the CIA's ability to develop essential "humint" (human intelligence). Here's where the Iraq war comes in again. The sooner we beef up our intelligence, the sooner we crack the insurgency and get to bring our troops home. What does it say to the people doing the painstaking work of building those spy networks when the identity of one of their own becomes just another weapon in the partisan wars of Washington? For a smart guy, Karl Rove was awfully stupid.

Rove strikes me as a kind of idiot savant. He's brilliant at one thing--brutally dirty politics. Otherwise, he may not know chickens from spinach. He never finished a college degree, which doesn't mean he isn't bright, but what the hell makes him qualified to be chief of staff in charge of policy?   
Rove possibly didn't appreciate the damage that outing Plame would do. But even if he did, would he have cared? I doubt it.
In other news--be sure to take note of "Plan Called for Covert Aid in Iraq Vote": 
 In the months before the Iraqi elections in January, President Bush approved a plan to provide covert support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties, but rescinded the proposal because of Congressional opposition, current and former government officials said Saturday.
Hey, if it's good enough for Ohio ... and don't miss "Battlefields" by Richard Clarke.

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12:48 pm | link

Rove Watch Watch Update
Thanks to a suggestion from frequent Mahablog commenter Anonymous, I was able to access "What I Told the Grand Jury" by Matt Cooper in the new (July 25) issue of Time. No big revelations, but here are the passages that most interested me:
...Virtually all the questions centered on the week of July 6, 2003....
...The grand jurors wanted to know what was on my mind, and I told them. The White House had done something it hardly ever does: it admitted a mistake. Shortly after Wilson's piece appeared, the White House said that the African uranium claim, while probably still true, should not have been in the President's State of the Union address because it hadn't been proved well enough. That was big news as the media flocked to find out who had vetted the President's speech. But at the same time, I was interested in an ancillary question about why government officials, publicly and privately, seemed to be disparaging Wilson. It struck me, as I told the grand jury, as odd and unnecessary, especially after their saying the President's address should not have included the 16-word claim about Saddam and African uranium....
... As I told the grand jury--and we went over this in microscopic, excruciating detail, which may someday prove relevant--I recall calling Rove from my office at TIME magazine through the White House switchboard and being transferred to his office. I believe a woman answered the phone and said words to the effect that Rove wasn't there or was busy before going on vacation. But then, I recall, she said something like, "Hang on," and I was transferred to him. I recall saying something like, "I'm writing about Wilson," before he interjected. "Don't get too far out on Wilson," he told me. I started taking notes on my computer, and while an e-mail I sent moments after the call has been leaked, my notes have not been....
...The notes, and my subsequent e-mails, go on to indicate that Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his findings....
... Did Fitzgerald's questions give me a sense of where the investigation is heading? Perhaps. He asked me several different ways if Rove indicated how he had heard that Plame worked at the CIA. (He did not, I told the grand jury.) Maybe Fitzgerald is interested in whether Rove knew her CIA ties through a person or through a document....
... surprising line of questioning had to do with, of all things, welfare reform. The prosecutor asked if I had ever called Mr. Rove about the topic of welfare reform. Just the day before my grand jury testimony Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, had told journalists that when I telephoned Rove that July, it was about welfare reform and that I suddenly switched topics to the Wilson matter. After my grand jury appearance, I did go back and review my e-mails from that week, and it seems as if I was, at the beginning of the week, hoping to publish an article in TIME on lessons of the 1996 welfare-reform law, but the article got put aside, as often happens when news overtakes story plans. My welfare-reform story ran as a short item two months later, and I was asked about it extensively. To me this suggested that Rove may have testified that we had talked about welfare reform, and indeed earlier in the week, I may have left a message with his office asking if I could talk to him about welfare reform. But I can't find any record of talking about it with him on July 11, and I don't recall doing so. ...
Other items of interest:
The words "double super secret background" were Cooper's, not Rove's. As most of us suspected, he was playing with a line from "Animal House."
Cooper is certain Rove didn't use Plame's name or say that she was covert.
Rove and Libby both stressed to Cooper that Dick Cheney had no connection to Wilson's trip. Also, Rove and Libby both backed the story that Wilson had been sent to Niger by Plame.
(I keep keyboarding "Liddy" intead of "Libby." This must signify something.)
Update: Forgot this bit:
 Although it's not reflected in my notes or subsequent e-mails, I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, "I've already said too much." This could have meant he was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don't know, but that sign-off has been in my memory for two years.
More dots connected by Laura Rozen and Attaturk.

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10:37 am | link

Rove Watch Watch
There may be more Traitorgate developments today, given that Joe Wilson and Matt Cooper are scheduled to appear on some of the Sunday squawk shows. And will Cooper's anticipated Time magazine article on his testimony be posted today? Could be.
(Hey, Cooper's article was just posted on the Time web site as I was about to upload this post. Woo-hoo! But as a non-subscriber I'm locked out. I canceled my subscription when Time ran that idiotic Ann Coulter cover story awhile back. I'll hunt around and see if anyone else has info on it, and get back to you later. If anyone with a Time subscription can access the article, please post juicy bits to the comments.)
Beside Frank Rich's must-read column (see previous post), the other Rove-related article worth checking out is this telling of The Story Thus Far by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen in the Washington Post. (I suggest reading the WaPo article in conjunction with Steve Soto's fill-in-the-gaps post. )
VandeHei and Allen write, 

... Bush, Vice President Cheney and other officials decided to make the yellowcake charges a central piece of the administration's evidence in arguing Hussein had designs on a dangerous program of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs. On the march to war, Bush officials rebuffed concerns from some at the CIA and included in his January 2003 State of the Union the now-famous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson was floored, then furious.

Wilson set out to discredit the charge, working largely through back channels at first to debunk it. He called friends inside the government and the media, and told the New York Times's Nicholas D. Kristof of his findings in Niger. Kristof aired them publicly for the first time in his May 6, 2003, column but did not name Wilson. This caught the attention of officials inside Cheney's office, as well as others involved in war planning, according to people who had talked with them.

This is a couple of months before the "outing" occurred, notice.

The White House, hailing the lightning-quick toppling of Hussein, suddenly found itself on the defensive at home over its WMD claims. It was not just Wilson, but Democrats, reporters and a few former officials who were publicly wondering if Bush had led the nation to war based on flimsy, if not outright false, intelligence.

Administration officials set out to rebuff their critics, Wilson in particular. By the time The Washington Post published Wilson's allegation questioning the intelligence (but not citing his name) on the front page on June, 12, 2003 -- one month before the Plame affair was public -- Wilson was on the administration's radar screen.

The more Wilson pushed, the more the White House was determined to push back against a man they regarded as an irresponsible provocateur.

"Irresponsible provocateur"--that's rich. Irresponsible provocation is the Bush White House's stock-in-trade.
Now, note this: Yesterday Richard Stevenson of the New York Times posted a story (probably in today's print edition) that said,
Prosecutors in the C.I.A. leak case have shown intense interest in a 2003 State Department memorandum that explained how a former diplomat came to be dispatched on an intelligence-gathering mission and the role of his wife, a C.I.A. officer, in the trip, people who have been officially briefed on the case said. ...
...  The memorandum was dated June 10, 2003, nearly four weeks before Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times in which he recounted his mission and accused the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq. The memorandum was written for Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and it referred explicitly to Valerie Wilson as Mr. Wilson's wife, according to a government official who reread the document on Friday.

When Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article appeared on July 6, 2003, a Sunday, Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, called Carl W. Ford Jr., the assistant secretary for intelligence and research, at home, a former State Department official said. Mr. Armitage asked Mr. Ford to send a copy of the memorandum to Mr. Powell, who was preparing to leave for Africa with Mr. Bush, the former official said. Mr. Ford sent it to the White House for transmission to Mr. Powell.

It's also worth noting this sequence:
July 6, 2003: Wilson's New York Times op-ed is published.
July 7, 2003: VandeHei and Allen write,
The next day, July 7, Bush took off for a trip to Africa. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was on the trip, carried with him a memo containing information about Plame, as well as other intelligence on the yellowcake claim. It is on this trip that, prosecutors believe, some White House aides might have learned about Plame.
Richard Stevenson wrote that  "Mr. Powell was seen walking around Air Force One during the trip with the memorandum in hand," which suggests to me the memo hadn't been given eyes-only status. 
July 8, 2003: In a famous phone call, Rove and Novak exchange information on Plame and Wilson. Currently, Novak and Rove are claiming that it was Novak who told Rove about Plame, but that wasn't Novak's original story.
As gleaned from various news stories (for example, the Richard Stevenson story linked above), the information in the June 10 memo exactly matches the information Rove and Novak apparently "exchanged" over the phone on July 8. This includes identifying Valerie Plame as Joe Wilson's wife instead of by name, and the story that this wife dispatched her husband to Niger, which is not the way anyone else in the CIA remembers it.
The story continues, with VandeHei and Allen: 

In Washington, Rove and others were discrediting Wilson's story even as then-CIA director George J. Tenet said that the yellowcake allegation should never have been included in Bush's speech. "This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed," Tenet said in a July 11 statement.

In a conversation that same day, Rove told Time magazine's Matthew Cooper that Wilson's wife was in the CIA and authorized the mission to Niger; but he did not use her name. Afterwards, Rove e-mailed then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to tell him he had waved Cooper off Wilson's claim.

A day later, Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, told Cooper he had heard the same thing about Plame, and a senior administration official flagged the role of Wilson's wife, almost in passing, to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus.

On July 14, Novak's column ran, naming Plame for the first time and saying two senior administration officials had provided him the information. The White House anti-Wilson campaign continued, but legally it did not matter, because once Plame's name was in the public domain, Rove and others were free to gossip about her.

Rove told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Plame was fair game, even as White House spokesman Scott McClellan was denying any White House role in the leak. "I'm telling you flatly that that is not the way this White House operates," the spokesman told reporters July 22. McClellan was usually careful to stress involvement in any illegal leak, though his public statements clearly left an impression of a White House aloof to the affair.

CIA officials believed that the revealing of Plame's identity was a potential crime and contacted the Justice Department to investigate. CIA officials maintain that Plame never ordered up the trip.

Circumstantial, but a whole s---load of circumstantial, huh?

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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[Mark Twain, 1905]

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