Tuesday, August 31, 2004


A moment of honesty: Bush now says we can never win the war on terror

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

[The response to this remark is a reminder of Michael Kinsley’s famous assertion, that the most notorious “gaffes” are not when a politician misspeaks, but when he speaks an unpopular truth. Still, since Kerry would have been savaged for saying this, I’m happy to hear Bush get his due]

The major play on this has been that Bush is “flip-flopping”



"I don't think you can win [the War on Terror]."
- President Bush, 8/30/04


"I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror."
- President Bush, 7/19/04

"People say, ‘Can you win the war on terror?’ Of course we can."
- President Bush, 5/14/04

"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course you can…it's essential we win this battle in the war on terror."
- President Bush, 4/13/04

"We're going to win the war on terror."
- President Bush, 2/12/04

[More: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/8/30/2013/69172

It is certainly true that having oversold the “war against terror,” Bush may be trying to lower expectations now.

But I think the real story is elsewhere: If (1) Bush is a wartime president and if (2) the war against terror will never end, it suggests a state of perpetual warfare in which erosions to civil liberties, skewed budgetary priorities, obsessive secrecy, and a “can’t criticize the President during wartime” mentality will be extended without an end in sight. I can even imagine, if Bush is re-elected, his supporters pushing a change to the 22nd Amendment, on the grounds that these are extraordinary times. (Do people forget that this was openly discussed when Reagan was President?)

Damage control today

President Bush said Tuesday “we will win” the war on terror, seeking to quell controversy and Democratic criticism over his earlier remark that victory may not be possible.

It is also interesting that Bush-friendly NYT reporter Elizabeth Bumiller went out of her way to suggest that Bush “misspoke,” when it was clear that he didn’t


Another moment of rare candor: Bush calls Iraq war “a catastrophic success” (which everyone is panning, but which seems a perfectly apt description to me)


And another example of inadvertent truths slipping out

I loved Bush's comment yesterday about the [Swift Boat] smear-ad: "I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us.”

What does he mean by “us”? It means just what it says


William L. Schachte is one of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He claims that he was on the boat when Sen. John Kerry was wounded and subsequently received his first purple heart. Kerry and others on the boat all dispute that he was there. And according to the Washington Post today, Schachte’s story may be motivated by his deep connections to the Bush administration…According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Schachte has been a registered lobbyist for Fastship, Inc, which has been pushing for millions of federal dollars to develop is products. Schachte works at Blank Rome, LLP – a lawfirm that lobbies for Fastship. At Blank Rome, Schachte lists his specialty as “government contracts and defense contracts.” In February 2004, the Bush administration gave a massive $40 million contract to Schachte’s client Fastship…In a 2000 letter to the editor in the Charleston Post and Courier, Schachte urged veterans to support George W. Bush (R) over Vietnam war hero Sen. John McCain (R) in the Republican presidential primary… Schachte has given $1,000 to President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. He has also donated generously to other Republican Party candidates.

Ben Ginsburg, Bush lawyer who “resigned” over his ties to Swift Boat ads (bitching and whining all the way) continues his connection with the Bush campaign


More Bush Co. assaults on workplace safety


Bush explains his health care policy

"What I'm telling you is we're not going to nationalize health care under George W., and my opponent is, see. That's the difference. My opponent will; we won't."

Bush’s second term – more of the same


Nice overview of where the Bush candidacy stands today


In Iraq, the rate of U.S deaths increases after handover of power

In August so far, 63 U.S. troops have died, and 54 died in July, the first complete month after the hand-over of power. In June, 42 American troops died, according to Associated Press and the Pentagon.

More “reconstruction” money to be diverted to other uses


Is CNN working to regain its journalistic integrity?


Meanwhile over an MSNBC, a useful new poll

Did Rudy Giuliani's speech reassure you or move you to support the Bush-Cheney ticket?
• Reassure
• Move you to support

Sharp analysis of the convention speeches: Will Saletan


[More on McCain’s speech: http://www.prospect.org/weblog/archives/2004/08/index.html#003774]

“We did not seek this war”


[Once again this trope conflates the fight against Al Qaeda and the perpetrators of 9-11, and the war in Iraq. Bush Co. certainly sought out the latter, made the decision to do it, then bent every rule and truth to justify it.]

Denny Hastert, former Mr. Nice Guy, now the master of the “we don’t know” backhanded Cheney slander – this is despicable, really

HASTERT: You know, I don’t know where George Soros gets his money. I don’t know where — if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I…

WALLACE: Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that’s what he’s been for a number years — George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he’s got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I’m saying I don’t know where groups — could be people who support this type of thing. I’m saying we don’t know. The fact is we don’t know where this money comes from.

A defeat for democracy: In Louisiana, state appeals court reverses lower-court ruling, says Alexander can run unopposed as a Republican


I have mixed feelings about this, but Ed Schrock (R-VA), recently outed, abruptly resigns without explanation

U.S. Rep. Edward L. Schrock abruptly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term in Congress, citing unspecified allegations that have "called into question" his ability to serve…Although Schrock did not comment on why he decided against seeking re-election, several Virginia Republicans said allegations that Schrock is gay have roiled the party since they were posted on a Web log Aug. 19. Schrock, 63, is married and a conservative who voted for legislation to ban gay marriages

U.S. Rep. Ed Schrock withdrew from his re-election race this afternoon, citing unspecified allegations…"In recent weeks, allegations have surfaced that have called into question my ability to represent the citizens of Virginia's Second Congressional District," Schrock said in a press release…Schrock, who would have been seeking his third term, did not elaborate on the nature of the allegations…"After much thought and prayer, I have come to the realization that these allegations will not allow my campaign to focus on the real issues facing our nation and region," the statement said. "Therefore, as of today, I am stepping aside and will no longer be the Republican nominee for Congress in Virginia's Second Congressional District.

Background and commentary: Schrock brought down by a blog




The Virginia Pilot notes "no mainstream newspapers, television stations or Web sites published the allegations. As the rumors continued to build, local Republicans began preparing for the worst."

Franklin update:

What does the leak of the inquiry mean for further investigations? Was it leaked in order to give higher-ups time to cover themselves?



FBI furious over leak (even though it was the likely source, says Rozen)


Questioning of higher-ups continues


What next?

The Post piece is an odd article -- not a bad one but an odd one since various parts of the piece seem to point such different directions. Some passages imply that investigators are simply jotting their 'i's and crossing their 't's before wrapping the whole thing up; others suggest the probe is much broader, reaching far beyond Franklin…The key seems to be -- and this has been reported in other articles -- that Franklin has been "cooperating with investigators for several weeks", as the Post puts it. There's only utility in getting someone like Franklin's cooperation if there are other people in the mix. I trust Strobel's reporting on this one: something bigger than just Larry Franklin is involved here.

The Boston Globe is about the only major media that has "gotten it," emphasizing in this morning's editorial the "light [the scandal] casts on the incoherence of policy-making in the Bush administration rather than any conspiracy to pilfer American secrets for Israel." The Franklin investigation is much more about the use of a back-channel to Iran, "surreptitiously" used by a faction in the DoD to undermine other factions in our national security apparatus. The Axis of Incompetence (AoI), Wolfowitz, Feith, and Luti, are seemingly attempting to instigate a war with Iran, perhaps replicating their astonishing success with Iraq.

Today, we learn from the Boston Globe's Brian Bender that there is yet a third investigation, also from the Hill, by the House Judiciary committee, of the activities of Feith's office. And this one, now in the preliminary stages, focuses not just on the DoD-Ghorbanifar Iran back channel we reported on, but also on whether yet another official in Feith's office, Michael Maloof, was involved in a back channel whose purpose was to destabilize Syria…What's at issue here? Whether these alleged Feith office back channels were not just about intelligence gathering [which would be problematic in and of itself], but if they had aspirations to be operational.

More on Ghorbanifar


Uggabugga provides a visual aid on the Franklin network


Bonus item: Geekiest protest sign of the year


Bonus bonus item: GOP stage setup -- pulpit or podium?


Monday, August 30, 2004


More on the spreading Franklin scandal: did the neo-cons block a prisoner exchange that would have garnered Zarqawi, others?

I haven't seen any more on the Jerusalem Post's tantalizing assertion that Franklin attempted to block the trading of Mojahedin-e Khalq terrorists to Iran in return for five high-ranking al-Qaeda operatives in Iranian custody. But here is an Agence France Presse report from last December that explains the negotiations.

AFP, Dec. 10, 2003:

Several Western diplomats have said Iran has been resisting handing over top-ranking Al-Qaeda fugitives, complaining that the United States had failed to deal with the People's Mujahedeen -- which has waged a brutal armed struggle against Iran's clerical rulers -- after its invasion of Iraq.

There have also been reports that Jordan's King Abdullah II was quietly trying to broker a deal between the United States and Iran over the issue.

Diplomats and Arab press reports have said Al-Qaeda detainees here include bin Laden's son, Saad, Al-Qaeda's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Gaith, and its number three Saif al-Adel.

The People's Mujahedeen, or Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO) set up base in Iraq in 1986 and carried out regular cross-border raids in Iran, with which Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988.

For many in Iran's leadership the struggle is also a personal one -- supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had his arm paralysed in a 1981 attack blamed on the group.

By the time this article appeared, the al-Qaeda trade had already fallen through because powerful US politicians, some with Likud Party links, had intervened to protect the MEK.

This summer, 2003 NBC report is also suggestive:

We have exclusive new details tonight on talks between the US and Iran, a nation the President said was part of an axis of evil. Iran can help the American fight against terrorism, but apparently they have named a price." NBC (Brown) adds, "These three, among the most wanted members of Al Qaeda. The alleged poison expert who got medical treatment in Iraq, [Abu Mussab al Zarqawi]. Bin Laden's third oldest son, [Sa'ad bin Laden], known to be planning new Al Qaeda operations. The Al Qaeda spokesman, [Suleiman abu Gaith], famous for introducing bin Laden in this videotape after 9/11. Many US officials believe that Iran is willing to turn them and other key Al Qaeda operatives over to the US or their home countries -- for a price -- in exchange for members of an Iranian opposition group called the Mujahadeen al-Khalq, or the MEK. The MEK has been attacking Iran's Islamic government from Iraq and is now there under US military control.

Iran is reported to have Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in custody in summer of 2003, and to be entirely willing to hand him over to the US in return for some high-ranking MEK terrorists. But first the neocon network, including Franklin, Harold Rhode and Michael Ledeen, intervenes to stop the trade (see below). Then, mysteriously, everything that goes wrong in Iraq from about January of 2004 begins being blamed on Zarqawi (is it alleged that Iran let him go, to deliberately disrupt Iraq by blowing up Shiites? More likely, when Iran won't accommodate the Neocons because of the latters' ties to MEK, the neocons decide to smear Iran as "harboring" terrorists and "sending" them to Iraq. They know this path might even lead to a US war on Iran, which is what they want. That is one reason they did not want the prisoner exchange to succeed).

The mysterious Mr. Ghorbanifar


The mysterious Judge Silberman

When I first heard about the spy case, it had already developed to the point that Manucher Ghorbanifar's name was being thrown around. His name was familiar, but not for his involvement in Iran Contra, his most impressive foray into American policy making. Instead, I remembered him from Reagan's "October Surprise" story, brought back into the public eye by Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty.

The October Surprise is shrouded in mystery, and likely always will be. The allegations are:

• The Reagan-Bush campaign was afraid that its electoral hopes in the 80 campaign would be dashed if Carter managed to secure release of American hostages from Iran prior to the election.
• Carter had overseen a dramatic reduction in CIA resources, and there was significant support for Reagan in the intelligence agencies.
• Reagan-Bush used these resources to open up a backchannel between the campaign and the Iranian government, securing a promise that Iran wouldn't release the hostages until after the election (and ultimately until Reagan's inauguration).
• The negotiations took place in two meetings, one at L'Enfant Plaza in D.C., and one in a Paris hotel.
• Reagan offered arms sales to Iran in exchange for the delayed release of the hostages.

These are all incredibly serious allegations, and many of them are based on unreliable testimony. There is at least one admitted fact, though: three Reagan-Bush staffers met with a representative of the Iranian government at L'Enfant Plaza. One of these officials was Judge Laurence Silberman. The second meeting is not admitted; that it took place is based on statements from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr. At the second meeting was none other than one Manucher Ghorbanifar.

Judge Silberman is now heading the official investigation our disastrous Iraq intelligence failures. If Manucher Ghorbanifar is the source of some of the flawed intelligence, there may be a small conflict of interest.

Oh yeah, Silberman exonerated a few Iran Contra criminals, stage-managed anti-Clinton smears, and is a total hack.

Where is this going? Could it cost Bush the election (or like Nixon and Reagan -- and Clinton, for that matter -- will he be re-elected only to have the scandal break wide open AFTER the election)?

Franklin was known to be one of a tightly knit group of pro-Israel hawks in the Pentagon associated with his immediate superior, William Luti, the hard-charging and impassioned protegé of former House speaker Newt Gingrich. As deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Near East affairs, Luti was a key player in planning the Iraq war. He, in turn, works in the office of Under Secretary Douglas Feith, a career lawyer who, before he became the Pentagon's No. 3, was a sometime consultant for Likud, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's political party…

Franklin has also been among the subjects of a separate probe being conducted by the Senate intelligence committee. Part of that investigation concerns alleged "rogue" intelligence activities by Feith's staff. Among these activities was a series of meetings that Franklin and one of his colleagues, Harold Rhode, had in Paris in late 2001 with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the shadowy Iranian arms dealer made infamous during the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s. One purpose of those meetings was to explore a scheme for overthrowing the mullahs in Iran, though Rumsfeld later said the plan was never seriously considered. But so far, there is no evidence that the Ghorbanifar contacts are related to the espionage probe. And officials familiar with the case suggest that the political damage to Bush and the Pentagon may prove to be more serious than the damage to national security.

Bush: Kerry was “more heroic”


[Of course, if he really believed this he COULD have said it two weeks ago and saved us all a lot of trouble. What this signals is the end of Swift Boat One – questioning Kerry’s Viet Nam service. They’ve gotten all the mileage they expect to get out of that (since all the substantive claims have been discredited by now), so now they can start distancing themselves from it. Coming up: Swift Boat Two — charging Kerry with disloyalty for opposing the war. Hence their strategy of trying to link anti-war demonstrations in NY to the Kerry campaign, preparing the groundwork for that accusation to come.]

A voice from the wilderness. Why doesn’t every Editor think this way?


We are in the middle of an important national event: the real-time confrontation of a political smear. In previous elections, the examination has almost always been in retrospect. Now the smear, against John Kerry's military service, is being critically examined as it happens…I see the recent commentary by John H. Hinderaker and Scott W. Johnson ("Unwrapping Kerry's story of Christmas in Cambodia," Aug. 18) as part of that smear. It did not meet what I believe should be the standards of the Star Tribune's editorial pages…

We have a responsibility to separate legitimate political opinion -- and the latitude is great -- from deliberate smear. That responsibility is especially important in this campaign. Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether a piece crosses that line; to me, this is not one of those times. A legitimate piece might have raised hard questions about Kerry in Cambodia; theirs wasn't that piece.

Colleagues wanted to print today's Hinderaker and Johnson piece to be "fair" to them. But these are folks who take unfair advantage of that concern…And what about fairness for John Kerry? These authors take great umbrage at my use of the word "fraudulent" to describe their writing. That word choice was quite deliberate: They hurled it at Kerry; I merely hurled it back.

Here is some of what I've seen during this presidential campaign: About six weeks ago, former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz submitted a piece that took on former counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke. The piece contained demonstrably false statements. I required that they be stripped from the piece, and they were. The piece ran.

Days later, Sen. Norm Coleman submitted a piece on Joe Wilson, who made the famous trip to Niger to investigate the yellowcake episode. The Coleman piece contained demonstrably false statements against Wilson. I asked that they be stripped out. One was not. It claimed that Wilson had "repeatedly" accused President Bush of deliberately lying to the American people about Iraq. Wilson is on the record, including in the Star Tribune, denying he ever said such a thing. I insisted that Coleman provide at least one quote in which Wilson accused the president of deliberately lying to the American people. His office either could not or would not do that. The piece did not run.

Then along came the Hinderaker-Johnson piece on Kerry. It should have set off all kinds of alarms. As one of the editors responsible for these pages, I regret that it did not -- and that I was not here to weigh in on the decision…Now comes their second piece. I could do extensive line-by-line analysis, but I will not. It would take space I do not have. For the fair-minded, two examples should suffice.

The top of their piece is devoted to negatives: No record of this, no record of that, etc. This proves nothing. There generally are no public records of clandestine activities. The burden of proof here is on Hinderaker and Johnson, not on Kerry and not on me.

On the relatively minor point of the Khmer Rouge, Hinderaker and Johnson rely on someone named Andrew Antippas. What they don't say is that he has just popped up, in an op-ed on the subject published in the Washington Times, the Moonie paper that has been a veritable fountain of attacks on Kerry. I have no idea if Antippas is who H & J say he is, and I suspect they simply appropriated his Washington Times op-ed as truth…

What do I think about Kerry in Cambodia? I have now read his biography and a number of other things, and I believe there is ample evidence that he was at least very near Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968 (see pages 209-219 of his biography, "Tour of Duty," plus the history of the SEALORDS campaign) and at other times as well. I can't prove he actually was ever there, and that wasn't my purpose; I do know that Hinderaker and Johnson failed to prove he wasn't. I have no idea why, 25 years ago in a review of "Apocalypse Now," Kerry mentioned President Nixon. Was it an act of hubris, a mistake, a conflation of memories?…I do know that this shouldn't matter. John Kerry served with distinction in Vietnam, in very dangerous duty. Lots of folks chose not to serve in Vietnam at all.

This is not about who is elected, but about how we allow this campaign to unfold, especially on our pages. I am sick to death of being played for a chump by the likes of Karl Rove. America can definitely do better.

Jim Boyd is the Star Tribune's deputy editorial page editor.

And on the issue of Bush’s own service, the gloves are coming off

Today Scott McClellan went on the offensive against Ben Barnes for describing the "shame" he feels over helping President Bush duck service in Vietnam…"It is not surprising coming from a longtime partisan Democrat," he said. "The allegation was discredited by the commanding officer. This was fully covered and addressed five years ago. It is nothing new."…It turns out that Barnes is such a down-the-line partisan that he supported Texas's Republican State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn for reelection in 2002…Strayhorn is Scott's mom.

[Bob] NOVAK: Ben Barnes was one of my favorite Democrats more than 30 years ago. The boy wonder of Texas politics until he was defeated for governor at the age of 34 in 1972. He reappeared this week, when a Texas Bush basher distributed a 45-second video for the Kerry campaign by Barnes, claiming that he, as lieutenant governor of Texas got Bush into the Air National Guard…But, Ben was not yet lieutenant governor when Bush joined the Guard. This sleazy politics is not the way for my old friend Ben Barnes to get back on the front page.

The only problem is that Novak knows this is not true…And the relevant dates of it and the office Barnes was serving in at the time have never been questioned. It happened during the time Barnes was Speaker of the House in Texas …In fact, not only has Barnes been consistent and his account not been questioned, even Bush himself and his campaign have accepted Barnes account. All they have insisted on -- though it is quite improbable -- is that they did not know at the time about his actions and were not involved in any way in requesting it…The president even went so far as to thank Barnes in a personal note for being clear that he had no direct, personal knowledge that the Bush family had contacted the intermediary who contacted him.

Abu Ghraib: Higher officers “responsible,” but not “culpable” – what does that distinction mean in the face of news like this?

Under pressure to extract more information from the prisoners -- to "go beyond" what Army interrogation rules allowed, as an Army general later put it -- the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq sent a secret cable to his boss at U.S. Central Command on Sept. 14, outlining more aggressive interrogation methods he planned to authorize immediately…The cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez listed several dozen strategies for extracting information, drawn partly from what officials now say was an outdated and improperly permissive Army field manual…Sanchez's order…was one of a handful of documents written by senior officials that Army officials now say helped sow the seeds of prison abuse in Iraq. They did so, according to an Army report released Wednesday, by lending credence to the idea that aggressive interrogation methods were sanctioned by officers going up the chain of command…[T]he U.S. military's ad hoc and informal decision-making in Iraq created confusion and allowed these harsh methods to infiltrate from Afghanistan to Guantanamo and finally to Iraq…

Our shining victory in Afghanistan (and a vision of Iraq’s future?)

At least seven people, including at least three Americans, were killed Sunday when a powerful bomb exploded outside the compound of an American contractor helping to train the Afghan police…The bombing comes just 40 days before presidential elections, scheduled for Oct. 9, and after warnings that the Taliban and other militant groups were planning major attacks in Kabul before the elections.

The U.S. government warned its citizens to keep a low profile in Kabul Monday after a car bomb hit a private American security company, killing 10 people in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital in two years.

Bush: we can’t win the war on terror (and as Josh Marshall says, imagine if John Kerry had said this)

"Can we win? I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”

Texas school performance tanks — but the DOE report’s release will be held until after the election (because it doesn’t fit the Bush message about the success of NCLB)


Bonus item: Sheri Drew, chosen to give the opening invocation at the GOP convention (read this – it will make you laugh, it will make you cry…)

If we had a decent press, every Bush surrogate would be asked "do you agree with Sheri Dew that support for gay marriage is like support for Hitler?"

[This is a another sharp stick in the eye for gay Republicans, who had to watch the platform committee adopt resolutions that were even more harsh, banning not only gay marriage but spousal benefits and any legal recognition at all of gay partnerships. But this fight may not be over:

[T]he Log Cabin Republicans…are irate over a platform that they consider a repudiation of gay rights [and are] threatening to withhold an endorsement of President Bush...

Two gay groups - one of them a gay Republican group - are starting advertising campaigns in the New York market during the Republican convention to attack the party's conservative turn, including the president's support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage…The Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay party members, is expected to announce today that it will be running commercials in the New York market this week, people briefed on the plans said. One person briefed on the plans said the commercials would quote from President Ronald Reagan on the subject of the party as a "big tent."]

Sunday, August 29, 2004


The long-awaited Marshall/Rozen/Glastris expose (“Iran-Contra II”)

The investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. In particular, the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith's office, which more-senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up.

Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith's office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of "regime change" in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach…

While the FBI is looking at the meetings as part of its criminal investigation, to congressional investigators the Ghorbanifar back-channel typifies the out-of-control bureaucratic turf wars which have characterized and often hobbled Bush administration policy-making. And an investigation by The Washington Monthly -- including a rare interview with Ghorbanifar -- adds weight to those concerns. The meetings turn out to have been far more extensive and much less under White House control than originally reported. One of the meetings, which Pentagon officials have long characterized as merely a "chance encounter" seems in fact to have been planned long in advance by Rhode and Ghorbanifar. Another has never been reported in the American press. The administration's reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a "regime change" agenda not approved by the president's foreign policy principals or even the president himself…

Over the last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted limited inquiry into the meetings, including interviews with Feith and Ledeen. But under terms of a compromise agreed to by both parties, a full investigation into the matter was put off until after the November election. Republicans on the committee, many of whom sympathize with the "regime change" agenda at DoD, have been resistant to such investigations, calling them an election-year fishing expedition. Democrats, by contrast, see such investigations as vital to understanding the central role Feith's office may have played in a range of a dubious intelligence enterprises, from pushing claims about a supposed Saddam-al Qaeda partnership and overblown estimates of alleged Iraqi stocks of WMD to what the committee's ranking minority member Sen. Jay Rockerfeller (D-WV) calls "the Chalabi factor" (Rhode and others in Feith's office have been major sponsors of the Iraqi exile leader, who is now under investigation for passing U.S. intelligence to Iran). With the FBI adding potential espionage charges to the mix the long-simmering questions about the activities of Feith's operation now seem certain to come under renewed scrutiny.

[Undoubtedly, this was rushed into print and there is a lot more to come…]

[More from Laura Rozen]

Key points:

1) The secret meetings between Pentagon officials and associates of Ghorbanifar in Europe went on for almost two years, a full year longer than the Bush administration has acknowledged. Ghorbanifar told me of three meetings. While the Pentagon originally told the Post last year that Harold Rhode, an official in Feith's office, had simply run into Ghorbanifar in Paris in June 2003, Ghorbanifar tells me that the two spent weeks planning the meeting.

2) The Italian military intelligence organization SISMI provided logistics and security at the first meeting, in Rome, in December 2001. And the head of Sismi, Nicollo Pollari, as well as the Italian Defense Minister, Antonio Martino, attended the meeting, along with Michael Ledeen, Ghorbanifar, Pentagon officials Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin. [Sismi has been in the news recently for having been reported to have used an Italian middle man to the put the forged Niger docs into circulation.]

3) Ghorbanifar told me he has had fifty meetings with Michael Ledeen since September 11th, and that he has given Ledeen "4,000 to 5,000 pages of sensitive documents" concerning Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, “material no one else has received.” Ghorbanifar, speaking with me by telephone from France, says those meetings took place abroad because he has been refused a US visa the last two times he has applied.

4) Ghorbanifar has also been meeting with an assortment of other American officials, which I will write about later.

The article is entitled "Iran Contra II" and that is apt for more reasons than the recurring roles of Mr Ghorbanifar and Mr Ledeen. Once again we see a marked "impatience" with the unfortunately cumbersome working of democratic government. That this may have happened for the second time in twenty years featuring many of the same people is a pretty clear indication that letting bygones be bygones will not do when dealing with this sort of traitorous, undemocratic behavior…It's completely unbelievable that these same players came back into government and ran their game all over again. Unbelievable.

If anyone is unfamiliar with the braintrust that is at the center of this little scheme, Michael Ledeen, here's a little taste of the man's brilliance…I'm sure you'll agree that he is just the sort of guy you want running a secret back channel foreign policy in the middle of a national security crisis…It makes me feel all cozy knowing that a guy like this and his compatriots have been meddling in mid-east policy apparently in concert with a rogue element in the Pentagon for the last three years.

Also in the mix, is Italian military intelligence, SISMI, which was present at the Ghorbanifar meetings. SISMI was also the conduit for the Niger forgery. More important, I think, than the Niger forgery was the other forged document. The reason the second document is more important is that it was less plausible. If what you really wanted to do was convince people that document one was real, you wouldn't have included document two. The only purpose of making it was to convince people that that stuff was true. And now we know that Ghorbanifar was, through Ledeen, acting so as to convince people that that stuff was true.

Conceptually, it's quite possible that there are two entirely different groups of people out there trying to convince the US government that Iran is somehow the architect of the global terrorist threat and that these two groups coincidentally both manage to run through Doug Feith's office at the Pentagon and, even more bizarrely, the Italian Ministry of Defense. In the real world, that would be a very strange coincidence indeed. Let's also note that besides all this, SISMI was also the source of early alarmist reporting about Iranian backing for Iraqi insurgents. And that information came to them from, where, exactly?

Here is my take on the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal in the Pentagon…It is an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of Defense. First, Iraq would be taken out by the United States, and then Iran. David Wurmser, a key member of the group, also wanted Syria included. These pro-Likud intellectuals concluded that 9/11 would give them carte blanche to use the Pentagon as Israel's Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv (not wars that really needed to be fought, but wars that the Likud coalition thought it would be nice to see fought so as to increase Israel's ability to annex land and act aggressively, especially if someone else's boys did the dying).

Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. He was an attache at the US embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the US, and learned a little Persian (not very much--I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian)…He seems a canny man and a political operator, and if he gave documents to AIPAC it was not an act of simple stupidity, as some observers have suggested. It was part of some clever scheme that became too clever by half.

Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise, Michael Ledeen, for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way. Franklin was also close to Harold Rhode, a long-time Middle East specialist in the Defense Department who has cultivated far right pro-Likud cronies for many years, more or less establishing a cell within the Department of Defense.

UPI via Dawn reports

An UPI report said another under-investigation official Mr Rhode "practically lived out of (Ahmad) Chalabi's office". Intelligence sources said that CIA operatives observed Mr Rhode as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel, discussing US plans, military deployments, political projects and a discussion of Iraq assets.

Josh Marshall et al. have just published a piece in the Washington Monthly that details Franklin's meetings with corrupt Iranian arms dealer and con man Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, who had in the 1980s played a key role in the Iran-contra scandal. It is absolutely key that the meetings were attended also by Rhode, Ledeen and the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, as well as Rome's Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino…The rightwing government of corrupt billionnaire Silvio Berlusconi, including Martino, was a big supporter of an Iraq war. Moreover, we know that the forged documents falsely purporting to show Iraqi uranium purchases from Niger originated with a former SISMI agent. Watch the reporting of Josh Marshall for more on this SISMI/Ledeen/Rhode connection.

But journalist Matthew Yglesias has already tipped us to a key piece of information. The Niger forgeries also try to implicate Iran. Indeed, the idea of a joint Iraq/Iran nuclear plot was so far-fetched that it is what initially made the Intelligence and Research division of the US State Department suspicious of the forgeries, even before the discrepancies of dates and officials in Niger were noticed. Yglesisas quotes from the Senate report on the alleged Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger:

The INR [that's State Department intelligence] nuclear analyst told the Committee staff that the thing that stood out immediately about the [forged] documents was that a companion document -- a document included with the Niger documents that did not relate to uranium -- mentioned some type of military campaign against major world powers. The members of the alleged military campaign included both Iraq and Iran and was, according to the documents, being orchestrated through the Nigerien [note: that's not the same as Nigerian] Embassy in Rome, which all struck the analyst as "completely implausible." Because the stamp on this document matched the stamp on the uranium document [the stamp was supposed to establish the documents bona fides], the analyst thought that all of the documents were likely suspect. The analyst was unaware at the time of any formatting problems with the documents or inconsistencies with the names or dates.

Journalist Eric Margolis notes of SISMI:

SISMI has long been notorious for far right, even neo-fascist, leanings. According to Italian judicial investigators, SISMI was deeply involved in numerous plots against Italy’s democratic government, including the 1980 Bologna train station terrorist bombing that left 85 dead and 200 injured. Senior SISMI officers were in cahoots with celebrated swindler Roberto Calvi, the neo-fascist P2 Masonic Lodge, other extreme rightist groups trying to destabilize Italy, the Washington neocon operative, Michael Ledeen, and the Iran-Contra conspirators. SISMI works hand in glove with US, British and Israeli intelligence. In the 1960’s and 70’s, SISMI reportedly carried out numerous operations for CIA, including bugging the Vatican, the Italian president’s palace, and foreign embassies. Italy’s civilian intelligence service, SISDE, associated with Italy’s political center-left, has long been a bitter rival of SISMI. After CIA rejected the Niger file, it was eagerly snapped up by VP Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who were urgently seeking any reason, no matter how specious, to invade Iraq. Cheney passed the phony data to Bush, who used it in his January, 2003 address to the nation in spite of warnings from CIA . . .

So Franklin, Ledeen, and Rhode, all of them pro-Likud operatives, just happen to be meeting with SISMI (the proto-fascist purveyor of the false Niger uranium story about Iraq and the alleged Iran-Iraq plot against the rest of the world) and corrupt Iranian businessman and would-be revolutionary, Ghorbanifar, in Europe. The most reasonable conclusion is that they were conspiring together about the Next Campaign after Iraq, which they had already begun setting in train, which is to get Iran.

But now The Jerusalem Post reveals that at least one of the meetings was quite specific with regard to an attempt to torpedo better US/Iran relations:

The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaida operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

The Neoconservatives have some sort of shadowy relationship with the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization or MEK. Presumably its leaders have secretly promised to recognize Israel if they ever succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs in Iran. When the US recently categorized the MEK as a terrorist organization, there were howls of outrage from scholars associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a wing of AIPAC), such as Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes. MEK is a terrorist organization by any definition of the term, having blown up innocent people in the course of its struggle against the Khomeini government. (MEK is a cult-like mixture of Marx and Islam). The MEK had allied with Saddam, who gave them bases in Iraq from which to hit Iran. When the US overthrew Saddam, it raised the question of what to do with the MEK. The pro-Likud faction in the Pentagon wanted to go on developing their relationship with the MEK and using it against Tehran…So it transpires that the Iranians were willing to give up 5 key al-Qaeda operatives, whom they had captured, in return for MEK members…Franklin, Rhode and Ledeen conspired with Ghorbanifar and SISMI to stop that trade. It would have led to better US-Iran relations, which they wanted to forestall, and it would have damaged their proteges, the MEK…

The FBI has evidence that Franklin passed a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC, which then passed it to the Israelis. The FBI is construing these actions as espionage or something close to it. But that is like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. Franklin was not giving the directive to AIPAC in order to provide them with information. He was almost certainly seeking feedback from them on elements of it. He was asking, "Do you like this? Should it be changed in any way?" And, he might also have been prepping AIPAC for the lobbying campaign scheduled for early in 2005, when Congress will have to be convinced to authorize military action, or at least covert special operations, against Iran. AIPAC probably passed the directive over to Israel for the same reason--not to inform, but to seek input. That is, AIPAC and Israel were helping write US policy toward Iran, just as they had played a key role in fomenting the Iraq war…

Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a rightwing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the Neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the US government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.

How influential was Franklin? (the DoD is trying to lowball this, of course)


A glimpse inside the Feith operation, from Karen Kwiatkowski

[July 2003]
What I saw was aberrant, pervasive and contrary to good order and discipline. If one is seeking the answers to why peculiar bits of ``intelligence'' found sanctity in a presidential speech, or why the post-Hussein occupation has been distinguished by confusion and false steps, one need look no further than the process inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I can identify three prevailing themes.

• Functional isolation of the professional corps. Civil service and active-duty military professionals assigned to the USDP/NESA and SP were noticeably uninvolved in key areas of interest to Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith, Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. These included Israel, Iraq and to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia…In terms of Israel and Iraq, all primary staff work was conducted by political appointees…

• Cross-agency cliques: Much has been written about the role of the founding members of the Project for a New American Century, the Center for Security Policy and the American Enterprise Institute and their new positions in the Bush administration. Certainly, appointees sharing particular viewpoints are expected to congregate, and an overwhelming number of these appointees having such organizational ties is neither conspiratorial nor unusual. What is unusual is the way this network operates solely with its membership across the various agencies -- in particular the State Department, the National Security Council and the Office of the Vice President…

• Groupthink. Defined as ``reasoning or decision-making by a group, often characterized by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view,'' groupthink was, and probably remains, the predominant characteristic of Pentagon Middle East policy development. The result of groupthink is the elevation of opinion into a kind of accepted ``fact,'' and uncritical acceptance of extremely narrow and isolated points of view…

More from Kwiatkowski: a profile of the key players. Long excerpt, but be sure to read the last paragraph

[March 2004]
The education I would receive there was like an M. Night Shyamalan movie -- intense, fascinating and frightening. While the people were very much alive, I saw a dead philosophy -- Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism -- walking the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil. The evil was recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. But there were other enemies within, anyone who dared voice any skepticism about their grand plans, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and Gen. Anthony Zinni.

From May 2002 until February 2003, I observed firsthand the formation of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and watched the latter stages of the neoconservative capture of the policy-intelligence nexus in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. This seizure of the reins of U.S. Middle East policy was directly visible to many of us working in the Near East South Asia [NESA] policy office, and yet there seemed to be little any of us could do about it…I saw a narrow and deeply flawed policy favored by some executive appointees in the Pentagon used to manipulate and pressurize the traditional relationship between policymakers in the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies.

I witnessed neoconservative agenda bearers within OSP usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president…

To begin with, I was introduced to Bill Luti, assistant secretary of defense for NESA. A tall, thin, nervously intelligent man, he welcomed me into the fold. I knew little about him. Because he was a recently retired naval captain and now high-level Bush appointee, the common assumption was that he had connections, if not capability. I would later find out that when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense over a decade earlier, Luti was his aide. He had also been a military aide to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich…Name dropping included references to getting this or that document over to Scooter, or responding to one of Scooter's requests right away. Scooter, I would find out later, was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.

Co-workers who had watched the transition from Clintonista to Bushite shared conversations and stories indicating that something deliberate and manipulative was happening to NESA. Key professional personnel, longtime civilian professionals holding the important billets in NESA, were replaced early on during the transition…Removing such a critical continuity factor was not only unusual but also seemed like willful handicapping. It was the first signal of radical change…At the time, I didn't realize that the expertise on Middle East policy was not only being removed, but was also being exchanged for that from various agenda-bearing think tanks, including the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs…

I soon saw the modus operandi of "instant policy" unhampered by debate or experience with the early Bush administration replacement of the civilian head of the Israel, Lebanon and Syria desk office with a young political appointee from the Washington Institute, David Schenker…Country desk officers were rarely political appointees. In my years at the Pentagon, this was the only "political" I knew doing that type of high-stress and low-recognition duty. So eager was the office to have Schenker at the Israel desk, he served for many months as a defense contractor of sorts and only received his "Schedule C" political appointee status months after I arrived.

I learned that there was indeed a preferred ideology for NESA. My first day in the office, a GS-15 career civil servant rather unhappily advised me that if I wanted to be successful here, I'd better remember not to say anything positive about the Palestinians. This belied official U.S. policy of serving as an honest broker for resolution of Israeli and Palestinian security concerns. At that time, there was a great deal of talk about Bush's possible support for a Palestinian state. That the Pentagon could have implemented and, worse, was implementing its own foreign policy had not yet occurred to me…

With war talk and planning about Iraq, all kinds of new people were brought in. A politically savvy civilian-clothes-wearing lieutenant colonel named Bill Bruner served as the Iraq desk officer, and he had apparently joined NESA about the time Bill Luti did. I discovered that Bruner, like Luti, had served as a military aide to Speaker Gingrich. Gingrich himself was now conveniently an active member of Bush's Defense Policy Board, which had space immediately below ours on the third floor…I asked why Bruner wore civilian attire, and was told by others, "He's Chalabi's handler." Chalabi, of course, was Ahmad Chalabi, the president of the Iraqi National Congress, who was the favored exile of the neoconservatives and the source of much of their "intelligence."…

In late summer, new space was found upstairs on the fifth floor, and the "expanded Iraq desk," now dubbed the "Office of Special Plans," began moving there. And OSP kept expanding…Another person I observed to appear suddenly was Michael Rubin, another Washington Institute fellow working on Iraq policy. He and Chris Straub, a retired Army officer who had been a Republican staffer for the Senate Intelligence Committee, were eventually assigned to OSP.

John Trigilio, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, was assigned to handle Iraq intelligence for Luti…Trigilio and I had hallway debates, as friends. The one I remember most clearly was shortly after President Bush gave his famous "mushroom cloud" speech in Cincinnati in October 2002, asserting that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction as well as ties to "international terrorists," and was working feverishly to develop nuclear weapons with "nuclear holy warriors." I asked John who was feeding the president all the bull about Saddam and the threat he posed us in terms of WMD delivery and his links to terrorists, as none of this was in secret intelligence I had seen in the past years. John insisted that it wasn't an exaggeration, but when pressed to say which actual intelligence reports made these claims, he would only say, "Karen, we have sources that you don't have access to." It was widely felt by those of us in the office not in the neoconservatives' inner circle that these "sources" related to the chummy relationship that Ahmad Chalabi had with both the Office of Special Plans and the office of the vice president…

Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, was a case study in how not to run a large organization. In late 2001, he held the first all-hands policy meeting at which he discussed for over 15 minutes how many bullets and sub-bullets should be in papers for Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A year later, in August of 2002, he held another all-hands meeting in the auditorium where he embarrassed everyone with an emotional performance about what it was like to serve Rumsfeld. He blithely informed us that for months he didn't realize Rumsfeld had a daily stand-up meeting with his four undersecretaries. He shared with us the fact that, after he started to attend these meetings, he knew better what Rumsfeld wanted of him. Most military staffers and professional civilians hearing this were incredulous, as was I, to hear of such organizational ignorance lasting so long and shared so openly. Feith's inattention to most policy detail, except that relating to Israel and Iraq, earned him a reputation most foul throughout Policy, with rampant stories of routine signatures that took months to achieve and lost documents. His poor reputation as a manager was not helped by his arrogance. One thing I kept hearing from those defending Feith was that he was "just brilliant."…

I spent time that summer exploring the neoconservative worldview and trying to grasp what was happening inside the Pentagon. I wondered what could explain this rush to war and disregard for real intelligence. Neoconservatives are fairly easy to study, mainly because they are few in number, and they show up at all the same parties. Examining them as individuals, it became clear that almost all have worked together, in and out of government, on national security issues for several decades. The Project for the New American Century and its now famous 1998 manifesto to President Clinton on Iraq is a recent example. But this statement was preceded by one written for Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud Party campaign in Israel in 1996 by neoconservatives Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Douglas Feith titled "A Clean Break: Strategy for Securing the Realm."…Before the Iraq invasion, many of these same players labored together for literally decades to push a defense strategy that favored military intervention and confrontation with enemies, secret and unconstitutional if need be. Some former officials, such as Richard Perle (an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan) and James Woolsey (CIA director under Clinton), were granted a new lease on life, a renewed gravitas, with positions on President Bush's Defense Policy Board. Others, like Elliott Abrams and Paul Wolfowitz, had apparently overcome previous negative associations from an Iran-Contra conviction for lying to the Congress and for utterly miscalculating the strength of the Soviet Union in a politically driven report to the CIA.

Neoconservatives march as one phalanx in parallel opposition to those they hate. In the early winter of 2002, a co-worker U.S. Navy captain and I were discussing the service being rendered by Colin Powell at the time, and we were told by the neoconservative political appointee David Schenker that "the best service Powell could offer would be to quit right now." I was present at a staff meeting when Bill Luti called Marine Gen. and former Chief of Central Command Anthony Zinni a "traitor," because Zinni had publicly expressed reservations about the rush to war…

Instead of developing defense policy alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture propaganda for internal and external use, and pseudo war planning…Even the most casual observer could note the tension and even animosity between "Wild Bill" Luti (as we came to refer to our boss) and Bruce Hardcastle, our defense intelligence officer (DIO). Certainly, there were stylistic and personality differences. Hardcastle, like most senior intelligence officers I knew, was serious, reserved, deliberate, and went to great lengths to achieve precision and accuracy in his speech and writing…I discovered that Luti and possibly others within OSP were dissatisfied with Hardcastle's briefings, in particular with the aspects relating to WMD and terrorism. I was not clear exactly what those concerns were, but I came to understand that the DIA briefing did not match what OSP was claiming about Iraq's WMD capabilities and terrorist activities. I learned that shortly before I arrived there had been an incident in NESA where Hardcastle's presence and briefing at a bilateral meeting had been nixed abruptly by Luti. The story circulating among the desk officers was "a last-minute cancellation" of the DIO presentation. Hardcastle's intelligence briefing was replaced with one prepared by another Policy office that worked nonproliferation issues…

The newly named director of the OSP, Abram Shulsky, was one of the most senior people sharing our space that summer. Abe, a kindly and gentle man, who would say hello to me in the hallways, seemed to be someone I, as a political science grad student, would have loved to sit with over coffee and discuss the world's problems. I had a clear sense that Abe ranked high in the organization, although ostensibly he was under Luti. Luti was known at times to treat his staff, even senior staff, with disrespect, contempt and derision. He also didn't take kindly to staff officers who had an opinion or viewpoint that was off the neoconservative reservation. But with Shulsky, who didn't speak much at the staff meetings, he was always respectful and deferential. It seemed like Shulsky's real boss was somebody like Douglas Feith or higher.

I shared some of my concerns with a civilian who had been remotely acquainted with the Luti-Feith-Perle political clan in his previous work for one of the senior Pentagon witnesses during the Iran-Contra hearings. He told me these guys were engaged in something worse than Iran-Contra. I was curious but he wouldn't tell me anything more. I figured he knew what he was talking about. I thought of him when I read much later about the 2002 and 2003 meetings between Michael Ledeen, Reuel Marc Gerecht and Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar -- all Iran-Contra figures…

Bush: a litany of intelligence disasters


But no one is ever responsible


Though Bush’s failures aren’t the only ones

My bashing of the Post below, though a joke, was actually a serious comment in the context of their editorial. What our media has failed to understand throughout the Bush administration, and especially since 2003, was that they have a slightly different role to play than when divided government exists. With Republican control of everything, the Democrats have no ability to set the agenda. They have no investigative power. They are unable to get out in front in a way which allows the media to happily continue its "one side/the other side" reporting. They actually have to get out in front of things - not just investigate them but make some noise about them…Right now the 4th Estate shouldn't be lecturing anyone on accountability - the lack of accountability can be placed squarely at their feet…

Gitmo “trials”: a fiasco and a sham, of course

Nuremberg it was not...Unlike the Nazi war crimes trials, which were conducted by seasoned legal specialists with the world looking over their shoulders, the opening round of the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay naval base last week seemed mired in uncertainty, inexperience and confusion.

As one session ended, the presiding officer appeared to be so blindsided by a defense maneuver that he sat with his face in his hands before issuing a ruling.

Repeatedly, the translation system broke down.

At one point, a defendant unexpectedly fired his court-appointed lawyer and began to blurt out a confession before officials could bring the situation under control.

And the outside world got only glimpses of the proceedings, which were carried out under such tight restrictions that no photographic, video or audio records of what went on are ever to be released.

After four days, the few international observers allowed to attend threw up their hands in disbelief and declared the system "fatally flawed."

"There were times when I actually had to think to myself, 'They're actually planning on prosecuting people in this forum,' " Jamana Musa of Amnesty International said. "It was mind-boggling."

The U.S. may not have been ready for prime time, but the defense attorneys certainly were

The historic opening last week of U.S. military commissions that have not been used since World War II was marked by twists and turns and a carefully crafted defense strategy designed to bring the cases against suspected terrorists into the American court system.

While it is too early to tell whether they will be successful, military and civilian defense lawyers spent much of the week lambasting the commissions as legal relics and creating a record of what took place at the Navy base here for possible U.S. court review.

In the end, the attorneys are hoping that federal judges will agree with their central argument: that the suspected al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters being tried in a makeshift military courtroom here cannot receive due process and fair trials under the commission process.

"These cases are headed straight to federal court," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, appointed by the military to represent a man who served as Osama bin Laden's personal chauffeur. "They are making this up as they go along."

Saturday, August 28, 2004


This is the week of the GOP convention, and several blockbuster stories threaten to swamp the upcoming staged events in NYC. I know we are supposed to believe the media and the polls that this is a close contest – but is there ANY way that Bush and his gang of clowns and crooks will survive all this?

A spy in the Pentagon: no surprise that this is centered in Douglas Feith’s shop, which has been the center of so much idiocy and corruption (Feith, called by General Tommy Franks, “the dumbest f***ing guy on the planet” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30904-2004Jul31.html). What IS a stunner is that this thread may unravel a much larger scandal.

This is a huge and complex story. So let’s take it slowly…

The break: from CBS

CBS News has learned that the FBI has a full-fledged espionage investigation under way and is about to -- in FBI terminology -- "roll up" someone agents believe has been spying not for an enemy, but for Israel from within the office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon…60 Minutes Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports the FBI believes it has "solid" evidence that the suspected mole supplied Israel with classified materials that include secret White House policy deliberations on Iran.

The name of the person under investigation was not officially released, but two sources identified him as Larry Franklin. He was described as a desk officer in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia Bureau, one of six regional policy sections…One government official familiar with the investigation said it is not yet clear whether the case will rise to the level of espionage or end up involving lesser charges such as improper disclosure or mishandling of classified information…

Several Pentagon officials sought to play down Franklin's role in policymaking, saying that he was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy…"It is the DOD's understanding that the investigation within DOD is very limited in its scope." Even so, the case is likely to attract intense attention because the official being investigated works under William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. Luti oversaw the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans," which conducted some early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

That office is one of two Pentagon offices that Bush administration critics have claimed were set up by Defense Department hawks to bypass the CIA and other intelligence agencies, providing information that President Bush and others used to exaggerate the Iraqi threat…The other office was run by a Luti superior, Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, and was known as the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group. Feith reports to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, who in turn reports to Rumsfeld.

The espionage investigation has focused on an official who works in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, officials who have been briefed about the investigation said. The F.B.I. has gathered evidence that the official passed classified policy documents to officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israeli lobbying group, which in turn provided the information to Israeli intelligence, the officials said…

Government officials suggested Friday that investigators were seeking the cooperation of the Pentagon official being investigated.

[You know what THAT means, don’t you?]

The F.B.I. inquiry has been under way for at least a year and has been one of the bureau's most sensitive spy cases in years, officials said. One official said that the suspected involvement of people working at a major pro-Israeli lobbying organization led the Justice Department to move cautiously.

The fact that the official under investigation works for Mr. Feith has also made the case politically sensitive for the Bush administration…Before the war in Iraq, Mr. Feith created a special intelligence unit that sought to build a case for Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, an effort that has since been heavily criticized by American intelligence professionals as an effort to justify the war.

Mr. Feith has also long been known as a major supporter of Israel, and while he was out of government in 1996 signed a paper, titled "A Clean Break," issued by a Jerusalem-based policy group that called for the toppling of Saddam Hussein in order to enhance Israeli security. Before he came to the Pentagon, Mr. Feith was also a partner in a law firm with L. Marc Zell, a lawyer with a firm now based in Israel.

"The investigation involves a single individual at D.O.D. at the desk officer level, who was not in a position to have significant influence over U.S. policy," the statement continued. "Nor could a foreign power be in a position to influence U.S. policy through this individual. To the best of D.O.D.'s knowledge, the investigation does not target any other D.O.D. individuals.''

[Keep reading!]

…The Pentagon analyst who officials said was under suspicion was one of two department officials who traveled to Paris for secret meetings with Iranian dissidents, including Manucher Ghorbanifar, an arms dealer. Mr. Ghorbanifar was a central figure in the Iran-contra affair in the 1980's, in which the United States government secretly sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in Lebanon and to finance the fighters, known as contras, opposing the Sandinista government in Nicaragua…The secret meetings were first held in Rome in December 2001, were approved by senior Pentagon officials and were originally brokered by Michael Ledeen, a conservative analyst at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute who has a longstanding interest in Iranian affairs. It was not clear whether the espionage investigation was directly related to the meetings with Mr. Ghorbanifar. Nor was there immediate evidence of whether money had changed hands in exchange for classified information.

And now this…

An FBI probe into the handling of highly classified material by Pentagon civilians is broader than previously reported, and goes well beyond allegations that a single mid-level analyst gave a top-secret Iran policy document to Israel, three sources familiar with the investigation said Saturday…The probe, which has been going on for more than two years, also has focused on other civilians in the Secretary of Defense's office, said the sources…In addition, one said, FBI investigators in recent weeks have conducted interviews to determine whether Pentagon officials gave highly classified U.S. intelligence to a leading Iraqi exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, which may in turn have passed it on to Iran. INC leader Ahmed Chalabi has denied his group was involved in any wrongdoing.

The linkage, if any, between the two leak investigations, remains unclear.

But they both center on the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's No. 3 official…Feith's office, which oversees policy matters, has been the source of numerous controversies over the last three years. His office had close ties to Chalabi and was responsible for post-war Iraq planning that the administration has now acknowledged was inadequate. Before the war, Feith and his aides pushed the now-discredited theory that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaida…

That analyst, Larry Franklin, works for Feith's deputy, William Luti, and served as an important - albeit low-profile - advisor on Iran issues to Feith and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz…

Investigators are said to be looking at whether Franklin acted with authorization from his superiors, one official said.

Two sources disclosed Saturday that the information believed to have been passed to Israel was the draft of a top-secret presidential order on Iran policy, known as a National Security Presidential Directive. Because of disagreements over Iran policy among President Bush's advisors, the document is not believed to have ever been completed…Having a draft of the document - which some Pentagon officials may have believed was insufficiently tough toward Iran - would have allowed Israel to influence U.S. policy while it was still being made. Iran is among Israel's main security concerns.

In a statement issued late Friday, the Pentagon said it "has been cooperating with the Department of Justice on this matter for an extended period of time. It is the DoD (Department of Defense) understanding that the investigation within the DoD is limited in its scope."

But other sources said the FBI investigation is more wide-ranging than initial news reports suggested…They said it has involved interviews of current and former officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department…Investigators have asked about the security practices of several other Defense Department civilians, they said.

Franklin's name surfaced in news reports last year when it became known that he and another Pentagon Middle East specialist, Harold Rhode, met in late 2001 with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms merchant who played a role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said publicly last year that nothing came of the meeting, which reportedly was brokered by former National Security Council official Michael Ledeen.

Feith has long been close to Israel. In 2000, he helped author a paper, "A Clean Break," that advised incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt a much tougher approach to the Palestinians and Israel's Arab neighbors.

A former Feith employee, Karen Kwiatkowski, has described how senior Israeli military officers were sometimes escorted to his Pentagon office without signing in as security regulations required.

How much further might this go?

An ad hoc office under US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith appears to have acted as the key base for an informal network of mostly neo-conservative political appointees that circumvented normal interagency channels to lead the push for war against Iraq…The Office of Special Plans (OSP), which worked alongside the Near East and South Asia (NESA) bureau in Feith's domain, was originally created by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to review raw information collected by the official US intelligence agencies for connections between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

Retired intelligence officials from the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have long charged that the two offices exaggerated and manipulated intelligence about Iraq before passing it along to the White House…But key personnel who worked in both NESA and OSP were part of a broader network of neo-conservative ideologues and activists who worked with other Bush political appointees scattered around the national-security bureaucracy to move the country to war, according to retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was assigned to NESA from May 2002 through February 2003.

The heads of NESA and OSP were Deputy Undersecretary William Luti and Abram Shulsky, respectively…Other appointees who worked with them in both offices included Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist previously with the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI); David Schenker, previously with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); and Michael Makovsky; an expert on neo-con icon Winston Churchill and the younger brother of David Makovsky, a senior WINEP fellow and former executive editor of pro-Likud Jerusalem Post.

Along with Feith, all of the political appointees have in common a close identification with the views of the right-wing Likud Party in Israel.

Feith, whose law partner is a spokesman for the settlement movement in Israel, has long been a fierce opponent of the Oslo peace process, while WINEP has acted as the think tank for the most powerful pro-Israel lobby in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which generally follows a Likud line…Also like Feith, several of the appointees were protégés of Richard Perle, an AEI fellow who doubles as chairman until last April of Rumsfeld's unpaid Defense Policy Board (DPB), whose members were appointed by Feith, also had an office in the Pentagon one floor below the NESA offices.

Similarly, Luti, a retired naval officer, was a protégé of another DPB board member also based at AEI, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. Luti in turn hired Ret. Col. William Bruner, a former Gingrich staffer, and Chris Straub, a retired lieutenant colonel, anti-abortion activist, and former staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee…Also working for Luti was another naval officer, Yousef Aboul-Enein, whose main job was to pore over Arabic-language newspapers and CIA transcripts of radio broadcasts to find evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that may have been overlooked by the intelligence agencies, and a DIA officer named John Trigilio.

Through Feith, both offices worked closely with Perle, Gingrich, and two other DPB members and major war boosters – former CIA director James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman – in ensuring that the "intelligence" they developed reached a wide public audience outside the bureaucracy…They also debriefed "defectors" handled by the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an opposition umbrella group headed by Ahmed Chalabi, a longtime friend of Perle, whom the intelligence agencies generally wrote off as an unreliable self-promoter.

[Lengthy analysis by Juan Cole: http://www.juancole.com/2004_08_01_juancole_archive.html#109368172121878771]

One more piece: Who is that “law partner” of Feith’s?

[October 2003]
Washington - The former law partner of the Defense Department's architect of Iraq's post-war planning has teamed up with the nephew of Ahmed Chalabi, a Pentagon-anointed leader in the country, to profit from the multibillion-dollar rebuilding of the war- ravaged nation.

L. Marc Zell, a Jerusalem-based attorney, is the former partner of Douglas Feith, the Pentagon undersecretary who was a major force behind the push for war.

Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi, has set up a law firm in Baghdad and has boasted of daily contact with his uncle, who has emerged as a powerful figure in the new Iraqi interim government. Chalabi is a favorite of Pentagon hawks, including Feith, who pushed for Hussein's overthrow.

In an interview, Zell said Salem Chalabi owns the Baghdad law firm, while Zell helped create the idea and is marketing the firm to U.S. and other clients. Zell said his previous 15-year partnership with Feith, and Salem Chalabi's family ties, are separate from the work the pair is doing in Iraq.

"It has nothing to do with [Ahmed] Chalabi or Doug Feith," Zell said…Both Feith and Ahmed Chalabi say they are not connected to either man's efforts to seek business in Baghdad.

Yet Salem Chalabi's Iraqi International Law Group hints at its ability to offer clients the advantages of its close contacts with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and the 24-member Iraqi Governing Council, upon which his uncle sits…A member of Chalabi's inner circle is more blunt about the appearance of impropriety related to Salem Chalabi's law firm: "This looks greedy, careless and stupid."

The Zell-Salem Chalabi venture is just one of several firms with ties to the Bush administration and influential Iraqis hoping to profit from Iraq's reconstruction, a years-long project that World Bank and other estimates say will cost at least $56 billion…Critics say the Zell-Chalabi effort in particular crosses an ethical line by appearing to play on family connections in Iraq to give clients a leg up in getting business. Coupled with no-bid contracts awarded to politically connected firms like Bechtel and Halliburton, critics say, these firms give credence to doubts expressed by skeptical allies and Iraqis over the Bush administration's true motives.

[November 2003]
If the administration is looking for a scapegoat for the situation it faces in Iraq, Feith is the most likely candidate both because of his relative obscurity compared to other administration hawks and the fact that, of virtually all of them, his ideas "particularly on the Middle East" may be the most radical.

A protege of Richard Perle, the former chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB) who stands at the center of the neo-conservative foreign-policy network in Washington, Feith has long opposed territorial compromise by Israel. He was an outspoken foe of the Oslo process and even the Camp David peace agreement mediated by former President Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel. His former law partner, L. Marc Zell, is a spokesman for the Jewish settlers' movement in the occupied West Bank.

But, more to the point, virtually everything that has gone wrong in Iraq "especially those matters that Congress is either investigating or is poised to investigate" is linked directly to his office. "All roads lead to Feith," noted one knowledgeable administration official this week.

It was his now-defunct Office of Special Plans (OSP) office that is alleged to have collected "often with the help of the neo-conservatives' favorite Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi" and "cooked" the most alarmist pre-war intelligence against Saddam Hussein and then "stovepiped" it to the White House via Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney unvetted by the intelligence agencies…It was also his office that was in charge of post-war planning and rejected months of work by dozens of Iraqi exiles and Mideast experts in the State Department and the CIA, work that anticipated many of the problems that have wrong-footed the occupation. It also excluded many top Mideast experts from the State Department from playing any role in the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq…And it is his office that, with the CPA, has recommended companies for huge and, in some cases, no-bid contracts in Iraq that have amounted, in the eyes of some critical lawmakers, to flagrant profiteering.

Among the companies which have profited the most are those whose consultants or officers also serve on the Pentagon's DPB, members of which are chosen by Feith. Indeed, in a particularly provocative move which raises a host of conflict-of-interest questions, Feith's former law partner, Zell, has set up shop with Chalabi's nephew in Baghdad to help interested companies win contracts for reconstruction projects.

[More on Feith, Zell, and Chalabi]

OK, so what does this all mean? It means the investigation of the leak to Israel may be linked to the investigation of the leak to Chalabi (the information that — “ironically” isn’t even a strong enough word— he passed to Iran). And all of this is against the background of the bizarre confluence of cronyistic financial dealings and intelligence swapping between Feith, Zell, and Chalabi.

But wait: unbelievably, there’s a THIRD piece —the question of who forged the Niger uranium document that started all the Plame business

How could you tell the difference between an Israeli spy on Doug Feith's staff and everyone else on Doug Feith's staff? A joke, yes, but only sort of. For that reason, I find these details more interesting…Israel, Iran, Rome, Michael Ledeen, the whole cast of characters reminds me of nothing so much as the Niger forgery and its accompanying Grand Islamic Alliance of Bad Guys forgery…

[Josh Marshall]
I haven't yet been able to comment on the breaking news last night that the FBI is investigating whether an employee at the OSD, Larry Franklin, passed classified US government information to Israel. That is because my colleagues and I have a piece coming out on the subject which will, hopefully, be appearing later today in The Washington Monthly…

A few thoughts though about this story…I'm told the evidence the FBI has on Franklin -- at least on the narrow facts of the case -- is quite strong and involves wire tap information, though why a career DIA analyst like Franklin would allow himself to get tripped up on a phone call mystifies me…The main focus thus far has been on the highly sensitive and troubling allegation that an ally, Israel, was spying on the United States or the recipient of classified information from a US government official.

However, I strongly suspect that as this story develops the bigger deal will be less the alleged recipient of the information, Israel, than the country that is the subject of the information, Iran.

[Laura Rozen]
For months, I have been working with my colleagues Paul Glastris and Josh Marshall on a story for the Washington Monthly about pre-war intelligence. In particular, the component I have been focusing on involves a particular series of meetings involving officials from the office of the undersecretary of defense for Policy Doug Feith and Iranian dissidents…As part of our reporting, I have come into possession of information that points to an official who is the most likely target of the FBI investigation…That individual is Larry Franklin, a veteran DIA Iran analyst seconded to Feith’s office.

Here is what I was told in the days before the FBI investigation came to light…A source told me that some time in July, Larry Franklin called him and asked him to meet him in a coffee shop in Northern Virginia. Franklin had intelligence on hostile Iranian activities in Iraq and was extremely frustrated that he did not feel this intelligence was getting the attention and response it deserved. The intelligence included information that the Iranians had called all of their intelligence operatives who speak Arabic to southern Iraq, that it had moved their top operative for Afghanistan, a guy named Qudzi, to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, that its operatives were targeting Iraqi state oil facilities, and that Iranian agents were infiltrating into northern Iraq to target the Israelis written about in a report by Seymour Hersh. According to my source, Franklin passed the information to the individual from AIPAC with the hope it could reach people at higher levels of the US government who would act on it. AIPAC presented the information to Elliot Abrams in the NSC. They also presented the part that involved Israelis who might be targeted to the Israelis, with the motivation to protect Israeli lives.

…My source soon after ran into another official from Feith's office, the polyglot Middle East expert and Bernard Lewis protege, Harold Rhode. My source mentioned the FBI meeting and asked Rhode if Franklin was in trouble. “It’s not clear,” Rhode allegedly told my source…

It’s no secret that some prominent neoconservative officials like Doug Feith, Vice Presidential advisor David Wurmser, and the former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle are sympathetic to the government of Ariel Sharon and the Likud government. Feith, Wurmser and Perle co-authored the paper, A Clean Break, which advocated that Israel abandon the Oslo peace process. But Franklin, although a passionate advocate of regime change in Iran, is not really among them. From modest beginnings, Franklin reportedly put himself through school, earned a PhD, and is now the Pentagon’s top Iran analyst. It would be an irony if he were to be the target of an investigation into passing US intelligence to Israel.

A friend points out one other irony is that what the Pentagon official is alleged in the CBS report to have passed to AIPAC and the Israelis is essentially a diplomatic document that describes a draft US policy position to Iran; in other words -- hardly the crown jewels, and hardly enough to warrant wiretaps and surveillance of Aipac's offices, he says. "The Israelis can get that stuff by going directly to Condoleezza Rice." In other words, it's not deeply technical knowledge about US satellite technology, for instance, or information the Americans had gotten from the Jordanians, or information about say a possible secret US back channel to Hezbollah. He wonders if this case is not politically motivated. It's no secret as well that there's intense competition over who would be national security advisor in a second term Bush administration. Anything that taints Feith and Wolfowitz could benefit their internal Bush administration foes…

Franklin has been investigated for this before, I'm told. What CBS has may not be the whole thing, but part of a pattern. What I have may be another part of a pattern. "There's got to be something else going on here," I'm told.

The Wash Times' Bill Gertz has an interesting bit of historical information:

One U.S. official said the FBI had unconfirmed information that Mr. Feith supplied information to Israel in the 1980s. However, the officials declined to provide further information citing the ongoing investigation. It could not be learned whether arrests are expected in the case.

With so many people in Feith's office and in the Vice President's office extremely sympathetic to Israel, it's hard to believe the Israelis needed the documents Franklin was providing. Or put another way: Franklin may have the misfortune of being one of the only officials in Feith's office who would need to use Aipac to pass information to the Israelis...

Rhode denies to UPI's Richard Sale that his security clearance was suspended in 1998 pending investigation of allegations he had given classified information to Israel.

The last word (at least until we see that Washington Monthly piece)

At least a few of the people who read this site are fans of the complicated mystery of who forged the documents claiming Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger, which were used by the Orwell Bush administration to beat the drums for war two years ago.

Well, according to Joshua Marshall, today is the day when his epic investigation of the subject with collaborators Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris -- or at least part of it, I guess -- appears in the Washington Monthly. And it couldn't come out at a better time, since a separate part of the overall story has hit the papers and TV networks already, involving a U.S. defense intelligence official leaking classified information to Israel for the purpose of influencing our policy toward Iran. (The big picture here linking both elements is that, as in the Iran-Contra scandal of the '80s, key members of the administration have been engaging in illegal actions to secretly influence U.S. foreign policy.)

Here's the fun part. One of the wrong-wing weblogs I occasionally amuse myself with is that of Roger L. Simon, a moderately successful novelist/screenwriter who's fallen hard for the neoconservative mythology. So hard that he's actually befriended leading neocon pundit Michael Ledeen, who may have played an indirect role in the promotion or creation of the Niger uranium forgeries, depending on what Marshall et al.'s reporting turns up.

Mark Kleiman’s good question: Why is the story breaking now?


[My question is whether this will draw attention away from the convention coverage, or get swamped by it.]

Another big story. Ben Barnes, the Texas Lt Governor who got Bush into the National Guard, is now talking: “I’m very ashamed”

Video: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/08/27/barnes/index_np.html

Transcript: http://atrios.blogspot.com/2004/08/i-got-young-man-named-george-w-bush-in.html

What Bush said about getting in

"Mr. Bush," I said. "How did you get into the Guard so easily? One hundred thousand guys our age were on the waiting list, and you say you walked in and signed up to become a pilot. Did your congressman father exercise any influence on your behalf?"

"Not that I know of, Jim," the future president told me. "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

Justice Dept refuses to release any more Bush National Guard records

The Justice Department has told the Associated Press that the government does not possess any records that would shed further light on the mysteries of President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service, beyond those that have already been made public, a lawyer for the news agency said yesterday.

[Notice the language here: not that there are no more records, but that the govt unilaterally has decided that they don’t contain any relevant new information]

Lawyers and reporters for the AP are currently engaged in an exhaustive examination of the material that has been made public, making a list of key documents that are missing but that should be on the microfilm…"We believe that we have identified some missing pieces," said AP general counsel Dave Tomlin. "Whether they're missing because they've disappeared from the file or because nobody ever generated them, we don't know. We're doing a sort of audit of them."

[And in case you haven’t discovered this site yet, here is the most complete examination of the record so far, which even based on presently released information is already damning for Bush: http://www.glcq.com/]

Did Bush get photographed wearing a medal he didn’t earn?


[Thanks to Mark Kleiman and the Democratic Underground]

More evidence that the fundamentalists are winning in Iraq


Abu Ghraib: more than 50 to be charged (when does the number cross the threshold of “a few bad apples” to become a systemic scandal?)


Donald Rumsfeld denies abuses occurred during interrogations

In his first comments on the two major investigative reports issued this week at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday mischaracterized one of their central findings about the American military's treatment of Iraqi prisoners by saying there was no evidence that prisoners had been abused during interrogations…The reports, one by a panel Mr. Rumsfeld had appointed and one by three Army generals, made clear that some abuses occurred during interrogations, that others were intended to soften up prisoners who were to be questioned, and that many intelligence personnel involved in the interrogations were implicated in the abuses…But on Thursday, in an interview with a radio station in Phoenix, Mr. Rumsfeld, who was traveling outside Washington this week, said, "I have not seen anything thus far that says that the people abused were abused in the process of interrogating them or for interrogation purposes." A transcript of the interview was posted on the Pentagon's Web site on Friday. Mr. Rumsfeld repeated the assertion a few hours later at a news conference in Phoenix, adding that "all of the press, all of the television thus far that tried to link the abuse that took place to interrogation techniques in Iraq has not yet been demonstrated." After an aide slipped him a note during the news conference, however, Mr. Rumsfeld corrected himself, noting that an inquiry by three Army generals had, in fact, found "two or three" cases of abuse during interrogations or the interrogations process. In fact, however, the Army inquiry found that 13 of 44 instances of abuse involved interrogations or the interrogation process, an Army spokeswoman said. The report itself explicitly describes the extent to which each abuse involved interrogations.

No Plame indictments before the election (and why not?)


Dick Cheney: the case for his guilt


Tom DeLay: the case for his guilt


Bad news for Bush on the campaign front

Almost half the public believes Bush re-elect is behind the swift boat ads (and the other half have their heads in the sand)


Plus, a closer look at the polls suggests that they may have hurt Bush more than they helped him


And still ANOTHER connection


See what Bob Dole actually said on CNN (when he was off the air – but with the cameras still running)

But Dole also made another statement that day, one that hasn't been aired until now. Of McCain's charge to President Bush during a 2000 debate—"You should be ashamed"—Dole told Wolf Blitzer, "He was right."

Question for Bob Dole: If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren't you ashamed now?

Newsweek: Of course Kerry earned his Bronze Star


Wall Street: Not happy with GWB


Bush’s big bribe: may propose exempting 50 million tax payers from filing returns (though not from paying taxes). What I want to know is whether they will end up paying MORE taxes by not itemizing and taking deductions (i.e., another regressive tax under the guise of “tax reform”)


Alan Greenspan: Laying the foundation for an assault on Medicare and Social Security in Bush term No.2 (just in case anyone is paying attention)


[Analysis: http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_08_22.php#003356]

Bush on campaign finance reform, before and after (gee, would you call this a flip-flop?)


Yet another Bush lie (False Bravado Edition)

The USA Today story makes a big deal about how Bush "says losing the election has never crossed his mind.”…But as I wrote in Monday's column, while Bush doesn't discuss the possibility in public, he certainly has discussed it at least once in private.

Edwin Chen of the Los Angeles Times tracked down several of the steelworkers who met privately with Bush on his bus tour of Ohio several weeks ago, and they told him that although he expressed confidence, "Bush said he would be at peace with himself 'if people elect to send me home.'…Chen quotes John Grogg, a furnace operator, who remembered the president saying: "You know, if I should lose this reelection for president of the United States, I know that I've done as good a job as I can do. And God would say, 'Good servant, take a break.' "

Sure sounds to me like it's at least crossed his mind.

[To say nothing of the hope that God will speak to him.]

Bush explains why he’s the obvious choice for President

"They’ve seen me make decisions, they’ve seen me under trying times, they’ve seen me weep, they’ve seen me laugh, they’ve seen me hug, they’ve seen me make decisions," he said. "And they know who I am, and I believe they’re comfortable with the fact that they know I’m not going to shift principles or shift positions based upon polls and focus groups."

Bonus item: Post mortems on that absurd interview Bush gave the NYT, and the line of the day


Mr. Bush also took issue with Mr. Kerry's argument, in an interview at the end of May with The New York Times, that the Bush administration's focus on Iraq had given North Korea the opportunity to significantly expand its nuclear capability. Showing none of the alarm about the North's growing arsenal that he once voiced regularly about Iraq, he opened his palms and shrugged when an interviewer noted that new intelligence reports indicate that the North may now have the fuel to produce six or eight nuclear weapons.

“Bush: Like a Rock…Only Dumber”