Saturday, December 31, 2005


The President lied and broke federal laws, and the Justice Dept roars into action. . . that is, trying to find the person who told us about it

[NB: You can see what’s coming – more subpoenas for reporters to reveal their sources, a shift from the scandal of what Bush did to the scandal of leaking national security secrets, and an active effort to minimize the Plame leaks as trivial by comparison.]

[Uh-huh] THE White House said overnight it had no role in the Justice Department's decision to investigate the leaking of classified information indicating that President George W. Bush authorised a secret government wiretap program. . . "The Justice Department undertook this action on its own, which is the way it should be," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said in Crawford, Texas. . .
[Digby] I assume this also means that nobody from the White House will be able to comment in any way since there is an ongoing investigation.
[Steve Benen] In other words, Bush circumvented the law with warrantless searches, but it's the whistleblower who's facing a criminal investigation.
[ACLU] "President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens. But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistleblowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law. . . To avoid further charges of cronyism, Attorney General Gonzales should call off the investigation. Better yet, Mr. Gonzales ought to fulfill his own oath of office and appoint a special counsel to determine whether federal laws were violated."
[Charles] Krauthammer just said that he needs to see a case of abuse before he is convinced that the leakers in the illegal NSA spying case are whistle blowers. . . Considering the history, "trust us we're only monitoring the bad guys" doesn't pass the smell test. We need real hearings and if we get them Krauthammer may very well get the examples of abuse that he needs.

Paul Krugman’s column this week is a classic (if you want to pay for it)
A year ago, we didn't know for sure that almost all the politicians and pundits who thundered, during the Lewinsky affair, that even the president isn't above the law have changed their minds. But now we know when it comes to presidents who break the law, it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

The real reason they didn’t want the hassle of going through the FISA court?

Remember the embarrassing moment when General Pace had to correct Donald Rumsfeld’s public misstatement of U.S. policy on torture? Well, don’t you know, they really weren’t disagreeing at all!

More on Uzbek torture on behalf of the U.S.

Pentagon uses forced labor, despite public stance against “human trafficking”
Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy. . . But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking. . .

20,000 mercenaries working in Iraq?

Military action against Iran?,1518,392783,00.html
According to Ulfkotte's report, "western security sources" claim that during CIA Director Porter Goss' Dec. 12 visit to Ankara, he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide support for a possible 2006 air strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities. More specifically, Goss is said to have asked Turkey to provide unfettered exchange of intelligence that could help with a mission. . . According to DDP, during his trip to Turkey, CIA chief Goss reportedly handed over three dossiers to Turkish security officials that purportedly contained evidence that Tehran is cooperating with Islamic terror network al-Qaida. A further dossier is said to contain information about the current status of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. Sources in German security circles told the DDP reporter that Goss had ensured Ankara that the Turkish government would be informed of any possible air strikes against Iran a few hours before they happened. The Turkish government has also been given the "green light" to strike camps of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran on the day in question.

One thing the Bush administration does well
[Armando] They are very good at defending themselves. . . They are incompetent at defending the country and the Constitution. Because they are incompetent at governing, they must resort to lying and lawbreaking to defend themselves from justified criticism. . .

Something else they do well – take care of their own
Since Mr. Bush took office in 2001, the federal government has awarded more than $3 billion in contracts to the President’s elite 2004 Texas fund-raisers, their businesses, and lobbying clients, a Blade investigation shows. In Florida, massive sugar companies and development firms led by Bush Pioneers and Rangers have reaped millions of dollars from government policies, which environmentalists say have sided with sprawl and development over the restoration of the Everglades.

One thing they DON’T do well is manage the country’s finances
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said yesterday that the United States could be unable to pay its bills in early 2006 unless Congress raises the government's borrowing authority, which is now capped at $8.18 trillion. . .

A few more things they haven’t done well
[Digby] I've been thinking about what might be the biggest cock-up of this metaphorical war on terrorism and there are so many that it's hard to limit it to just one. Invading Iraq has to be the grandaddy, but Gitmo, abu Ghraib and letting bin Laden go at Tora Bora rank right up there. . .Making enemies of the entire world wasn't such a great idea. Secret prisons in Europe not so much either. . .

One of the things that has been hard to stomach in recent weeks is the press lapping up the supposed “candor” and “humility” Bush has been showing lately over the origins of the Iraq war. All it took was some disingenuous and oblique references to “mistakes” and “faulty intelligence” to put them all in a forgive-and-forget frame of mind. Bush says, gee, isn’t it too bad that there weren’t any WMD, and the media swoons: HE ADMITTED THERE WEREN’T WMD!

But since this is a plainly established fact, it shouldn’t reflect well on him in any way that it took him this long to admit it. (Moreover, the Bush gang is simultaneously coordinating efforts with groups like Move America Forward, which is STILL pedaling the WMD lie.)

Either way, the point that needs emphasizing is that they knew AT THE TIME that there weren’t WMD and had already decided to go to war anyway – that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” New disclosures on the Downing Street Memos remind us that the decision was made to start a war early, and for other reasons, and everything after that was a charade on how best to sell it, domestically and internationally

Connect the dots
Long lines formed at gas stations in Baghdad on Friday as word spread that Iraq's largest oil refinery had shut down. . .
Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum has been temporarily released from his post amid a dispute over the government's petrol pricing policy. . . He is to be replaced for 30 days by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi.
Mr Chalabi, who has been improving relations with Washington after previously falling out with the US administration, was appointed acting oil minister after the incumbent Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum was given leave, the officials say.

A contrary view
[Swopa] It may be too late to stop the remaining top liberal blogs from running with the story, but everyone needs to step back from the ledge for a moment and chill out. Because of the recent elections, all of the ministers are lame ducks at this point. Besides, as the current deputy prime minister, Chalabi was the old oil minister's boss, so he's not in charge of something he didn't have his hands on before. . . A close look at the story Josh linked to suggests that the "sources" of this news are Chalabi's aides, trying to make it look like their boss is a man of action taking the reins during a crisis. My guess is that his erstwhile partners in the ruling United Iraqi Alliance probably aren't any more impressed by that bit of media grandstanding than they were by his self-promoting trip to Washington last month. . . In fact, it's encouraging to note that Chalabi's high position in the interim government didn't keep Team Shiite from quietly and unceremoniously wiping him off their election slate. If Ahmad gets appointed to run the ministry for the new governing coalition, though, then it'll be okay to freak out.

Woo-hoo! Fun ahead
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff are putting the finishing touches on a plea deal that could be announced as early as Tuesday, according to people familiar with the negotiations. . . The plea agreement would secure the lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients. . .

Jack Abramoff also schmoozed reporters (not very surprisingly) but for some reason no one is reporting on who they were (thanks to Atrios for the link)

Tom DeLay thinks his biggest problem is an aggressive prosecutor back in Texas? Think again
[Josh Marshall] Buckle-up your seatbelts. Then go read this Post article on Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Russian arms-and-oil hustlers, a piggy bank called the U.S. Family Network and a whole lot more. . . this is a helluva piece of reporting.
[Michael Brus] The Post's analysis of the U.S. Family Network's tax records reveals that its funding came almost exclusively from a handful of corporations with lobbying ties to Abramoff. Most of the corporations had no interest in the advocacy group's self-described "moral-fitness" agenda but did have an interest in legislation before Congress. Delay, then a member of the House leadership, made fundraising calls for the group from its offices, which at times also housed Delay's political action committee. Despite raising $2.5 million over its five-year existence, the group never had more than one full-time staff member and never did much advocacy.
[Kos] The piece, which appears to be a solid investigative piece by the WaPo (they list seven people who worked on the story), says that there was nothing illegal about the $1 million Russian bribe (contribution). But the money, however laundered, was then used to finance radio attack ads against Democrats? Somehow, that doesn't seem too legal. . . Nor does the fact that the rest of the money was used to subsidize the headquarters of a firm that paid DeLay's wife a salary.

The whole story:

The Brad Blog, which has always led on electronic voting shenanigans, breaks another story that no one will pay attention to: the machines use illegal, easily-hacked code
In December, The BRAD BLOG joined newspapers across the country and reported that computer experts in Florida had conclusively proven that the “electronic ballot box” in Diebold optical scan vote counting systems could undetectably alter the results of an election. Within days, California’s Secretary of State reported that the use of banned software affects Diebold’s touch-screen voting system as well, a fact which Diebold has acknowledged. . . This breach of security exploits an inherently insecure feature of the Diebold optical scanners and touch screens known as interpreted code, which the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 1990 and 2002 specifically prohibit. For further details about how Diebold uses interpreted code and why it is banned from use in voting software, please click here.

Does your phone bill include a “war tax”?

Bonus item: King George,3566,179777,00.html

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, December 30, 2005


NSA surveillance violates laws AGAIN (this is the third new story in a week – how many more to come?)
NSA inadvertently uses banned 'cookies'



GST – never heard of it?
Covert CIA Program Withstands New Furor
The effort President Bush authorized shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, to fight al Qaeda has grown into the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War, expanding in size and ambition despite a growing outcry at home and abroad over its clandestine tactics, according to former and current intelligence officials and congressional and administration sources.

The broad-based effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.

Over the past two years, as aspects of this umbrella effort have burst into public view, the revelations have prompted protests and official investigations in countries that work with the United States, as well as condemnation by international human rights activists and criticism by members of Congress.

[Eric Umansky] The Post points to the agency's preparations for the possibility of a prisoner dying in CIA custody: "One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources."

It's actually hard to tell if there's much of significance new in the WP's CIA piece. The most noteworthy thing might just be all the insiders who are leaking.

Hey, how’s that self-sufficient Iraqi security force coming along?
G.I.'s to Increase U.S. Supervision of Iraqi Police
American commanders are planning to increase significantly the number of soldiers advising Iraqi police commando units, in part to curtail abuse that the units are suspected of inflicting on Sunni Arabs, a senior commander in Iraq said Thursday. . .

[“Supervision”? or “advising”?]
[Eric Umansky] In terms of the Iraqi commando forces, the NYT says American officials acknowledge it's "unclear whom the units are taking orders from," the government or militia commanders. "The commandos and the public order brigades sort of grew like Topsy, very quickly, without much control, and without much training, but with lots of influence from the Ministry of the Interior and the Sciri-Badr organization," said one U.S. commander. "The exact roles and responsibilities of those units is not clear to us."

The Post also covers the commando development and quotes what seems to be the same U.S. officer extolling the merits of the added advisers for the police. "By hugging the enemy, wrapping our arms around them, we hope to control them," he said.

The NYT says the same U.S. commander quoted earlier about more American advisers for police forces also "confirmed details of a shift to fewer American troops covering more Iraqi ground." The latest mini-draw-down, which the Times doesn't spend much space on, seems limited to central Iraq. The NYT says "Americans are hoping that Iraqi units"—that is, Iraqi army forces, which the U.S. trusts more than the police—"can pick up the slack."


So much for that much-touted Bush “rebound”

British memos show that U.S. knowingly used information extracted through “outsourced” torture

The memos:


Rumsfeld admits to “ghost” prisoners

How we missed Bin Laden
[Larry Johnson] The book the CIA didn't want you to read, JAWBREAKER by Gary Berntsen, is out . . . Your jaw may drop open and hit the floor.

Pentagon spending
[Holden] A $100,000 military jeep that can't be driven in a war zone? Sweet. . .

Iraq: failure ahead
The major developments in the region of 2005 have been momentous, but what is striking is how little the over-all dynamics have changed. . .
Sunni Arab and secular groups refused Thursday to open discussions with the Shiite religious bloc leading in Iraq's parliamentary elections until a full review of the contested results is carried out. . .
The Kurdish parties are completely open about their desire to incorporate Kirkuk into Iraqi Kurdistan.. . .

From a British (not a U.S.) paper, an honest assessment
Review of the year: The Bush Administration
Scandal, incompetence - and dark clouds ahead. . .

Why the Democrats are afraid to make a big issue of the worst Presidential abuse of power in a generation (perhaps even longer)

Alito: the state of play

You’ve heard a lot about this New Orleans scandal. . .
Nearly 50 people have been indicted in a scheme that bilked hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Red Cross program created to put cash into the hands of Hurricane Katrina victims. . .

But not this one. . . I wonder why?
At face value, the Supplemental Terrorist Activity Relief Act (or STAR Act), passed shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, was a good idea. Countless businesses were badly hurt by the terrorist attacks, and the STAR Act was a federal loan program designed to help businesses avoid bankruptcy and recover. . .

Republicans and anti-intellectualism: An anti-southern bias?
Conservatives assume that the Republican Party is by and large conservative. But this party has stood for many and various things in its history. The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture. . .


Shamefully bad journalism department
[Norah O’Donnell, MSNBC]
O'DONNELL: So, Gary, you say that you knew where Osama bin Laden was. . .

O'DONNELL: Can I ask you, Gary, are you a Democrat?

BERNTSEN: No, I'm a Republican.
[“Steno” Sue Schmidt, Washington Post] DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.

David Broder: I screwed up. But not as badly as THESE guys did


Bonus item: Molly Ivins – funny, scary (thanks to Susan Madrak for the link)

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Bob Barr, conservative Republican and Clinton nemesis, is fed up with Bush’s lying about domestic spying
Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.

First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. . .


One LITTLE problem
The Bush administration’s surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda. . . U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.

“The fruit of a poisoned tree”

If there was a problem with FISA that didn’t allow for quick turnaround of critical warrant applications, whose fault was that? (guess)


Poll says 64% support NSA searches
Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States.

Why this is bad polling

Why these are actually BAD numbers for Bush

On “framing” the issue

Bush admin rips CONSERVATIVE appeals court decision
[Eric Umansky] The NYT and WP reefer the administration, in a brief to the Supreme Court, ripping into an appeals court's ruling that denied the government's attempt to move "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla from military to civilian custody. Calling it an "unwarranted attack on presidential discretion," the government argued that the lower court's decision "defies both law and logic." The court, which had found just a few months ago that Padilla can be held indefinitely, had suggested the White House was looking to move Padilla simply to avoid having his case reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Always a good career move: telling George Bush what he wants to hear
[NYRB] Yoo had a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the US response to the attacks of September 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same— the president can do whatever the president wants.

Scotty’s eventual replacement?
[The Duffer] Q To follow up on last week, you know that New York Times story that talked about the NSA, and how the government was doing much broader surveillance than the White House has acknowledged. Are you familiar with that story?

MR. DUFFY: Yes, I saw the story. We'll be declining to comment on any specific operational details. . .

Q If I could just follow up on that for a second. In the briefing we had at the White House last -- a week ago, Monday, I think it was General Hayden who said at that time that the technology of the program was such that you could only pick up international calls. And he seemed to suggest at the time that a broader program would not have been technologically possible, even if authorized. Your unwillingness to go repeat that, and not discuss the operational details after the story might be interpreted as suggesting that General Hayden's comment no longer stands. Would that be reasonable?

MR. DUFFY: I don't think so. I pointed back to the briefing on Friday by General Gonzales and also by General Hayden. I have nothing more to add to it. I mean, his comments stand. I'm declining to go into any specific operational aspects of the program because General Hayden and General Gonzales briefed on it and I don't have anything more to say. That's all. . .

Q And one more question. UPI is reporting that the reason why -- let me find it real quick. That the reason -- that the U.S. decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps because the court was challenging President Bush at an unprecedented rate.

MR. DUFFY: I'm sorry, can you say that again, Jessica?

Q That the reason U.S. President George Bush decided to skip seeking warrants for international wiretaps was because the court was challenging him at an unprecedented rate.

MR. DUFFY: The President has already addressed how this program was done within the law, and I don't have anything more to add to that. . .

Q When the President said that -- described this program the way he did in his news conference, did he mean to suggest that it is only limited to eavesdropping on ongoing phone calls, or did he not mean to sort of limit it to just that? I mean, the impression that he left was that the program is just about eavesdropping on conversations as they happen.

MR. DUFFY: I'll have to get back to you on that question, Dana. I'll take that.
Q The New York Times reports today that. . . there's consideration of filing criminal charges against President Bush, himself. Is he prepared to face any possible charges, and what kind of -- the White House must have some sort of reaction to the concern that this could bring this NSA issue into the court and open it up to all sorts of inquiries.

MR. DUFFY: I'd just leave it just where I said, Jessica. The Attorney General, himself, the administration's top legal eagle, explained the legal underpinnings that the administration is basing this program on. And I don't have anything to add to that. We always decline to comment on pending cases. You're asking me to speculate about what may happen in the future, and that's another area where we shy away from.

Q Are you making preparations in the Legal Counsel's Office to defend this in court?

MR. DUFFY: I don't know how to answer that question. So I won't. . .

Q The President publicly acknowledged the NSA wiretapping in his Saturday radio address. But in subsequent news revelations about perhaps broader surveillance, he's chosen not to acknowledge that. Why the difference?

MR. DUFFY: The President discussed what he felt comfortable discussing in the news conference, and this is a highly classified, or was a highly classified program and he felt it necessary to discuss that since it was reported. And that's the decision that he made and the administration made.

Fox News: should the New York Times be charged with treason?

The Department of Homeland Security is a travesty, and god help them if their lassitude allows another attack
Nearly three years after it was formed, the immense Department of Homeland Security remains hampered by severe management and financial problems. . .
A report released Tuesday by 13 members of the House Homeland Security Committee says that nearly three years after the cabinet department's creation, gaps still remain in federal efforts to defend the nation against terrorism - including at ports, borders and chemicals plants.

The department also fails to share alerts and other intelligence quickly with state and local officials, according to the Democrats' report, which analyzes public statements and congressional testimony that outline Bush administration security goals since 2002. . .
[AP] Meeting notes, released Tuesday by a union representative for federal emergency workers, stated that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told employees that many changes planned after Hurricane Katrina were for publicity purposes.

Chertoff’s spokesman firmly denied he ever made such comments.

The typed notes, purportedly taken by an unidentified official, said Chertoff told the employees the retooling of the Federal Emergency Management Agency “is partially a perception ploy to make outsiders feel like we’ve actually made changes for the better.’’. . .

An apparently little detail, which speaks volumes
[AP] The three military service chiefs have been dropped in the Bush administration's doomsday line of Pentagon succession, pushed beneath three civilian undersecretaries in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's inner circle. . .[read on]

Interesting? The Nation magazine is praising a “retired U.S. Army colonel who served as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell” as one of their “Progressives of the Year”

UN: no serious fraud in Iraq vote (well, what else COULD they say?)

The Kurds: BIG trouble ahead

The Washington Post’s must-read on Jack Abramoff
Jack Abramoff liked to slip into dialogue from "The Godfather" as he led his lobbying colleagues in planning their next conquest on Capitol Hill. In a favorite bit, he would mimic an ice-cold Michael Corleone facing down a crooked politician's demand for a cut of Mafia gambling profits: "Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this: nothing."

The playacting provided a clue to how Abramoff saw himself -- the power behind the scenes who directed millions of dollars in Indian gambling proceeds to favored lawmakers, the puppet master who pulled the strings of officials in key places . .

One quibble:

Tom DeLay, still angling desperately to get his old job back

Ha, ha. They’ll try ANYTHING. . .
Texas' top criminal court agreed to consider U.S. Representative Tom DeLay's motion for a speedy trial on money laundering charges. . .
Media reports that U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay had convinced the state's highest court to hear his appeal were as widely circulated as they were, well, wrong. . . The erroneous media reports, which the San Antonio Express-News published in a wire story and displayed online, come from DeLay's spokesman, Kevin Madden, in an e-mail sent to reporters Tuesday evening, after courts had closed for the night.

Fascinating story on the origins of the Lincoln Group, the out-of-nowhere outfit who got the Pentagon contract to plant fake news stories in the Iraqi media,,11069-1958479,00.html


Who is behind Move America Forward? And why can’t we find out?

Can the Dems retake the Senate and get some real investigative hearings under way?

Bush team rethinks strategy
President Bush shifted his rhetoric on Iraq in recent weeks after an intense debate among advisers about how to pull out of his political free fall. . .

When George Bush “jumped the couch”
“Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on, which is -- you've heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror” [read on]

ACLU: Bush = Nixon

Bonus item: Roger Ailes’ Year in Review Quiz

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I used to have a friend in college who liked to say, “Don’t ask – because if you ask, they might say no.” This seems to be the Bush gang’s principle for dealing with the FISA court
Government records show that the administration was encountering unprecedented second-guessing by the secret federal surveillance court when President Bush decided to bypass the panel and order surveillance of U.S.-based terror suspects without the court's approval.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress shows that the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than from the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The court's repeated intervention in Bush administration wiretap requests may explain why the president decided to bypass the court nearly four years ago to launch secret National Security Agency spying on hundreds and possibly thousands of Americans and foreigners inside the United States, according to James Bamford, an acknowledged authority on the supersecret NSA
Federal applications for a special U.S. court to authorize secret surveillance rose sharply after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and the panel required changes to the requests at a even greater rate, government documents show. . . The Justice Department's reports to the U.S. Congress on the surveillance court's activities show that the Bush administration made 5,645 applications for electronic surveillance and physical searches through 2004, the most recent year for which figures are available. In the previous four years, the court received a total of 3,436.


This is not just a lie, but a very stupid lie. We already know the surveillance net was cast much wider than this
In Crawford, Texas, where Bush is spending the holidays, his spokesman, Trent Duffy, defended what he called a "limited program. . . This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner," he told reporters. "These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches."
[John Aravosis] Wow, very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings and churches, yet Bush never sought a court order to conduct the snooping because he thought a court wouldn't let him?! Huh?. . .

But there's a larger question. If Bush is now telling the truth about who these people are, then pray tell, what the hell was Bush doing letting hundreds if not thousands of people "who have a history of blowing up trains, weddings and churches" run around free inside the US for the past 4 years?
[Atrios] Wow, you'd think the Bush administration would arrest some of these people. . . Wonder why they don't. . .

Grain of salt department: but IF this is true, it is going to be a megaton explosion (thanks to Buzzflash for the link)
President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency's campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. . .

The leaked NSA email detailing the agency's spy tactics against the U.N. was written Jan. 31, 2003 by Chief of Staff for Regional Targets Frank Koza. In the email, Koza asked an undisclosed number of NSA and British intelligence officials to "pay attention to existing non-UN Security Council Member UN-related and domestic comms (home and office telephones) for anything useful related to Security Council deliberations."

The right-wing’s excuses for why Bush shouldn’t have to get a warrant for domestic eavesdropping at all are starting to get PRETTY silly
“Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance. . .”
“FISA was broken well before 9/11. Was the president to ignore the evident fact that FISA's procedures and strictures were simply incompatible with dealing with the al Qaeda threat in an expeditious manner? Was the president to ignore the obvious incapacity of any court, operating under any intelligible legal standard, to judge surveillance decisions involving the sweeping of massive numbers of cell phones and emails by high--speed computers in order even to know where to focus resources?. . .”


Reason #259 not to conduct illegal wiretaps: you have now given every terror suspect a new line of defense at trial


The fatal flaw in Bush’s reasoning
[Steven Benen] At his end-of-the-year press conference last week, the president hopes to set Americans' minds at ease over his warrantless-search program by emphasizing the international aspect to it. "[I]f you're calling from Houston to L.A.," Bush said, "that call is not monitored."

As it happens, that wasn't actually true. Nevertheless, a reporter on hand for the press conference quickly followed up on the president's response by taking his approach further, asking, "[W]hy not monitor those calls between Houston and L.A.? If the threat is so great, and you use the same logic, why not monitor those calls?"

Bush responded by pointing out that he would use FISA courts to monitor domestic calls if the need arose — which, again, wasn't true. . .

[NB: You see the problem. If the unbounded powers of the Commander in Chief during times of war justify ANY law-breaking the President deems necessary, then why EVER use the FISA court? Why not threaten newspaper editors who publish information deemed “harmful to the war effort” with conviction and imprisonment? Why not screen ALL phone conversations? Why make the search for intelligence dependent on ANY externally-defined parameters at all? Laws, shmaws, there’s a war on, damn it! The implication of Bush’s argument is that the ONLY constraints on Presidential action are self-imposed ones.]

This pretty much sums up the debate. Let it begin
The domestic-spying order has set off a furious debate over whether the war on terrorism gives Bush a blank check when it comes to civil liberties and whether the president, in fact, broke the law.

Awwww. . . .Is this supposed to make us feel sympathy for him?
[Kathleen Parker, very possibly the dumbest syndicated columnist working today] Staying the course is no one's easy road, and Bush is his own worst enemy some days. He seems tired of his own slogans and platitudes. We won't cut and run. We'll stand down when they stand up. Shift to the left, shift to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight. . . In one of his speeches, Bush seemed to lose interest in his own text and didn't bother to complete a sentence about the Iraqi elections. Weary-looking and gray, he has aged dramatically in five years.

[NB: Yeah, me too.]

Is the pressure of repeating the same empty formulas, lies, and evasions day after day getting to Scotty?
Colleagues (on-message) say McClellan has held up well in these difficult months. Others (off-message) say he's had a tough time, has lost hair, gained jowls and looks stressed, especially over the Plame case. . .
[WP] With the administration moving ahead with plans to renovate the dirty and decaying press room off the West Wing of the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan -- or his replacement, if he steps aside before then -- intends to start briefing the world from historic Jackson Place, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, as early as July.

Here’s a thought experiment, a fantasy, really: Imagine a country where prisoners are systematically tortured. Imagine a country where after learning these facts there is an immediate call for the responsible official to resign, even though there is no evidence that the official directly ordered or knew about the activities. What place of sanity is this?

CIA renditions are being scrutinized more carefully – but only ten are under review
[Laura Rozen] The CIA Inspector General is probing about ten "erroneous" renditions, the AP reports. That is, when the CIA snatched the wrong guy, and flew him to another country to be tortured. As for all the other cases where they managed to snatch the not incorrect guy and flew him to Egypt or wherever for torture, there is no as yet in-house investigation.


I have a colleague, Jan Pieterse, who argues that instability in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East, is not an inadvertent byproduct of poor post-war planning, but was in fact an intended outcome all along. I don’t know about that, but if it WERE intended, they couldn’t have managed things any better
[Matt Yglesias] Conveniently shrouded by Americans' holiday plans, the political situation in Iraq seems to have unraveled even faster than I would have guessed. Insurgent warfare is back with a vengeance showing that there's not a zero-sum relationship between Sunni political participation and Sunni warfare. Meanwhile, Sunni political leaders regard the results of the recent election as illegitimate and are demanding extra seats in parliament, which the winners are refusing, prompting protests in the streets. Relatedly, The New York Times's Richard Opel thought up a clever way to try and look at the sectarian composition of Iraq's security forces and determined, as had been widely guessed, that Sunni Arabs are largely excluded from the new state apparatus.

The big idea in America, now shared by both Sunni political leaders and our man Iyad Allawi, is that there should be a national unity government. That's a decent suggestion, but it puts us in an awkward position. What if the Shiite parties that won the election refuse? Is America then going to continue to back them in an emerging civil war even though we've previously conceded that we agree with their opponents?

Ah, perfect, just as we planned. . .
[K-R] Kurdish leaders have inserted more than 10,000 of their militia members into Iraqi army divisions in northern Iraq to lay the groundwork to swarm south, seize the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and possibly half of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and secure the borders of an independent Kurdistan.

Five days of interviews with Kurdish leaders and troops in the region suggest that U.S. plans to bring unity to Iraq before withdrawing American troops by training and equipping a national army aren't gaining traction. Instead, some troops that are formally under U.S. and Iraqi national command are preparing to protect territory and ethnic and religious interests in the event of Iraq's fragmentation, which many of them think is inevitable.

The soldiers said that while they wore Iraqi army uniforms they still considered themselves members of the Peshmerga - the Kurdish militia - and were awaiting orders from Kurdish leaders to break ranks. Many said they wouldn't hesitate to kill their Iraqi army comrades, especially Arabs, if a fight for an independent Kurdistan erupted. . .

Ahmed Chalabi, once the neo-cons’ hand-picked choice to be head of Iraq. . .
[Josh Marshall] There are so many complicated details of what is happening today in Iraq, as various factions and sectarian groupings vie for position in the aftermath of this month's national election. But one clear and bright spot does stand out -- the utter and seemingly limitless humiliation of Ahmad Chalabi. . . Last week we noted Chalabi's feebler-than-feeble election results, which showed him coming in well under 1% of the national vote and facing a complete shut-out from the new national assembly. . .

The Post also notes that without seat in the Assembly, Chalabi would presumably also not be able to join the government, thus perhaps limiting at least to some degree his ability to preen, pose and posture in the western press.

Hmmm. . . can’t we find a spot for Chalabi somewhere, something face-saving, a place where he can’t do any mischief, and where his close ties to the Bush gang can be turned to advantage? Where could that be?
[FT] Meanwhile, Iraqi oil officials quoted by Dow Jones said yesterday that the deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi would take over the oil ministry, replacing Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum, who has taken a month’s leave. . .

Why the hiatus in the Plame investigation? Jane Hamsher offers some guesses
Things sure have been quiet on the Plame front of late. Someone was asking today what I thought it all meant so based on absolutely nothing but intuition and baseless gossip here goes:

1. Luskin either got the boot or has been neutered. He's clearly not talking to the press any more, which is so un-Luskin like that either Karl has fired him or his participation as a witness now necessitates silence. . .

2. The nomination of Viveca Novak's husband to the FEC is nothing if not a giant "f-ck you" to Fitz, and if it happened in say the Gotti organization it would definitely raise the eyebrows of a prosecutor. It's also a big "who's your daddy" moment for Viveca Novak, as she is probably out of a job and now the key defense witness for a man who is now going to be her husband's boss. Those who want to argue they nominated him purely on his merits with no notion of any larger implication? Please. This is Karl Rove we're talking about here.

3. The fact that they felt free to do (2) above means that they know Rove is going to soon to be indicted. With the exception of Victoria Toensig and her squirrelly husband running around calling Fitzgerald an out-of-control prosecutor, Rove has really gone out of his way up until now to refrain from his usual smear tactics and keep on Fitz's good side. That they are no longer troubling to do this means they know the party's over.

4. Fitzgerald has been before the new grand jury several times recently without presenting any new witnesses. I have no clue what he's talking to them about but it would suggest he is presenting information that was previously given to the other grand jury and it's not a new matter. We've been told over and over again that Rover barely escaped the hangman's noose during Round One, so it's not outside the realm of the imaginable to assume his turn is up once again. . .
[Jeralyn Merritt] Viveca's husband is Robert D. Lenhard. His nomination was announced by the White House here. I also find the appointment curious, especially since Mr. Lenhard donated $1,000. to John Kerry in 2004. [Update: A commenter below points out that Lenhard was Harry Reid's choice to fill a Democratic slot on the FEC months ago, as reported last August in the Hill. It's Congressional leadership that picks the nominees, Bush just follows through with the appointment. So scratch that theory.]

The news graybeards agree: don’t blame us!
[E&P] NEW YORK Appearing on “Meet the Press” with Tim Russert this week, two broadcast veterans, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Ted Koppel, agreed that the press shouldn’t be faulted too harshly for not questioning more deeply the claims of WMD in Iraq—and declared that Bill Clinton would have gone into Iraq just like George Bush if were still president in 2003.

The press is running out of euphemisms to describe Bush Co. lies
White House Prevarications

For some press people, there is no factual misstatement or deception that can’t be reframed as a mere partisan difference of opinion: Exhibit A


Exhibit B: “media savvy” conservative group runs ads spouting ridiculous and long-discredited Iraq war lies (Saddam DID have WMDs, WAS linked to Al Qaeda, etc). They should be dismissed with derisive laughter. But they know that most of the media coverage will recycle those lies for them, treat them respectfully, and relegate any debate over the facts to he said/she said partisanship. And like clockwork. . . .
The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions."

The hard-hitting spots are part of a recent public-relations barrage aimed at reversing a decline in public support for President Bush's handling of Iraq. . . While even Mr. Bush now publicly acknowledges the mistakes his administration made in judging the threat posed by Mr. Hussein, the organization is taking to the airwaves to insist that the White House was right all along.

Similar to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- the advocacy group that helped derail John Kerry's presidential campaign -- Move America Forward has magnified its reach by making small television and radio ad buys and then relying on cable- and local-television news outlets to give the commercials heavy coverage. . .

[NB: Yeah, well, now you can add the Wall Street Journal to the list]

Exhibit C: Ann Coulter, on the Today Show, compares Bush’s domestic spying to the WW II internment of Japanese-Americans (which she thinks was a nifty idea). She understands how the conventions of media “politeness” and “balance” mean that she gets to spew whatever disgusting and outrageous lies come into her head, and she will still be treated seriously and without question

More end-of the year awards – don’t miss ‘em!
The Chickenhawk of the Year Award. . .
The Fluffy. . .
The Purple Teardrop with Clutched Pearls Cluster. . .
The Soggy Biscuit Award. . .
Wank of the Year. . .
The Palme d’Hair. . .

The Year of Scandals, in review

Bonus item: Ho, ho, ho Mr. Frist
[LAT] As they prepared to send the spending cuts to the floor, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and his GOP lieutenants realized they were headed for defeat unless they secured one more vote. And to get that, Frist had to meet the asking price of one of two GOP senators, Norm Coleman of Minnesota or Gordon H. Smith of Oregon.

Smith vowed not to support the bill unless it was changed so that proposed savings on Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor, were achieved at the expense of drug companies and other providers instead of coming in the form of lower benefits for Medicaid recipients.

Coleman's price for supporting the package was removing from the bill a provision that would have eliminated $30 million in subsidies for sugar beet growers, many of them in his home state.

In the end, sugar farmers got to keep their subsidy and Frist got Coleman's vote.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005


A slow morning for fresh links, so let me take a moment to expand on something I wrote yesterday, using the word “totalitarian” to describe the Bush regime. Typical leftist hyperbole?
“Totalitarianism is a typology employed by political scientists, especially those in the field of comparative politics, to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. Totalitarian regimes mobilize entire populations in support of the state and a political ideology, and do not tolerate activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions, churches and political parties that are not directed toward the state's goals. They maintain themselves in power by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, and widespread use of terror tactics.”

Is there any question that this is the BASIC view of government shared by this administration? Let’s review:

1. One party rule: this is a group that does not accept the basically cyclical nature of political winning and losing. Redistricting, manipulation of voting rules, corruption in the use of voting machines, the “K Street Project,” etc, are all intended to lock in a PERMANENT Republican administration. The fact that they may not succeed doesn’t mean that this isn’t their agenda.

2. Hostility to other points of view: the basic tenet of liberal democracy, of open debate, open contests, and the legitimacy of alternative points of view, is utterly foreign to this group. Dissent is unpatriotic, even treasonous. Religiously-inflected rhetoric labels opposition as immoral, even “evil,” not as legitimate. Administration mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh say openly that their aim isn’t to defeat “liberalism” politically, but to ELIMINATE liberalism as a competing ideology.

3. Domination of civil society: the spread (and government subsidization) of privatized and faith-based alternatives to public institutions in all areas of social welfare, education, health care, and other social services is a long-term project, reinforced by policies to dry up alternative sources of support for institutions not controlled by a conservative agenda.

4. Control of the media: I don’t think this issue even bears elaboration. Planted and fabricated “news” stories, bought and paid for. Reporters with administration loyalties who get special access and leaks to build their careers. Talk radio, and at least one full-time news network that is little more than a government-run propaganda outlet, all work in co-ordinated concert with government talking points. Strict control of information and a degree of secrecy not seen in this country for decades, maybe ever, manifested in active efforts to intimidate and pressure media not to cover certain stories at all.

5. Government surveillance under the auspices of “national security”: ubiquitous, not answerable to courts, highly secretive, and all wrapped in a Big Brother-ish promise to “trust us, because only we can keep you safe.”

6. Use of terror: no, we don’t have widespread secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and a network of gulags domestically (though god help you if you are Muslim and in the wrong place at the wrong time). I’m not a “black helicopter” conspiracy theorist. But clearly this administration DOES do these things internationally. And even that fact has an impact on domestic politics: when Bush, Cheney, et al. say “we will do whatever it takes to keep America safe” (their code for “don’t ask us what we’re doing”) the implied ruthlessness reinforces their “don’t f-ck with us” Tough Guy persona in domestic politics.

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - just so long as I'm the dictator." December 18, 2000

I’m not trying to be shrill here – but I think the very fact that these observations are even PLAUSIBLE shows that an alarming corner has been turned. Totalitarianism rarely appears as such: it grows rule by rule, piece by piece, each presented as reasonable or “necessary” – especially in times of national anxiety and insecurity. Then one day you wake up and something is gone that you never realized you were losing.


Bush gang stonewalling Freedom of Information request

More lies about rendition (thanks to Buzzflash for the link)

More on John Yoo: the man who tells Bush just what he wants to hear


Juan Cole: Top ten myths about Iraq

Here, YOU take it. . . .
[Swopa] In the context of ongoing American plans for a slow-motion withdrawal of some troops from Iraq, the Washington Post reports on our "progress". . . Okay, so you've instituted unsustainable security measures that have crippled the town and infuriated the locals ... and now you're going to hand the whole mess over to an undertrained police force? With a supposedly temporary assist from Moqtada al-Sadr's militia?. . . Gosh, I can't imagine how anything could go wrong with that plan.

Wheels within wheels. Trent Lott (R-MS) threatens not to run for his seat next year, which could cost the GOP control of the Senate. What game is he playing here?

“Pass the popcorn”

John McCain’s educational theory
"Let the student decide."

Everything is partisan, eh? Apparently, only “liberals” are concerned when newspapers suppress news stories under government pressure

[NB: Well, maybe that's true]

Bonus item: the Biggest Lies of 2005

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Monday, December 26, 2005


Wow – ANOTHER major story the Bush gang pressed the news media not to report. I wonder what basis of trust they think they have earned to be making such demands? But wouldn’t that be the final piece of their totalitarian puzzle: buy the good news you want, suppress the bad news you don’t

Poland helps:
The Polish Government has decided not to make public the results of an inquiry into the possible existence of United States CIA prisons on Polish soil. . . "The report should not be made public," Jan Dziedziczak said. . .

[NB: So, I guess we should take that as a YES, right?]

Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz promised last week that the results of the probe would be made known in a comprehensive fashion. . . "We must probe this affair to its very depths because it does not foster a situation of security in Poland," Mr Marcinkiewicz said at the time. . . "The investigation will completed very quickly, between now and next week. Of course we are going to reveal all the results of this investigation."

[NB: How do you say “horse’s head” in Polish?]

The Sunday column everybody is talking about: Chapman’s no lefty!,1,3472167.column
[Stephen Chapman] President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.

He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government. . . But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far."

He's not the only one who feels that way. Consider the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in 2002 on suspicion of plotting to set off a "dirty bomb." For three years, the administration said he posed such a grave threat that it had the right to detain him without trial as an enemy combatant. In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed.

But then, rather than risk a review of its policy by the Supreme Court, the administration abandoned its hard-won victory and indicted Padilla on comparatively minor criminal charges. When it asked the 4th Circuit Court for permission to transfer him from military custody to jail, though, the once-cooperative court flatly refused.

In a decision last week, the judges expressed amazement that the administration suddenly would decide Padilla could be treated like a common purse snatcher--a reversal that, they said, comes "at substantial cost to the government's credibility." The court's meaning was plain: Either you were lying to us then, or you are lying to us now.

If that's not enough to embarrass the president, the opinion was written by conservative darling J. Michael Luttig--who just a couple of months ago was on Bush's short list for the Supreme Court. For Luttig to question Bush's use of executive power is like Bill O'Reilly announcing that there's too much Christ in Christmas.

This is hardly the only example of the president demanding powers he doesn't need. When American-born Saudi Yasser Hamdi was captured in Afghanistan, the administration also detained him as an enemy combatant rather than entrust him to the criminal justice system.

But when the Supreme Court said he was entitled to a hearing where he could present evidence on his behalf, the administration decided that was way too much trouble. It freed him and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, where he may plot jihad to his heart's content. Try to follow this logic: Hamdi was too dangerous to put on trial but not too dangerous to release.

The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?. . . The government easily could have gotten search warrants to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone with the slightest possible connection to terrorists. The court that handles such requests hardly ever refuses. But Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone.

He claims he can ignore the law because Congress granted permission when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. But we know that can't be true. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales says the administration didn't ask for a revision of the law to give the president explicit power to order such wiretaps because Congress--a Republican Congress, mind you--wouldn't have agreed. So the administration decided: Who needs Congress?

What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.

Lots of Powellian doubletalk in this interview, but THIS I find very revealing – he was the Secretary of State!
[AP] Powell said that when he was in the Cabinet, he was not told that President Bush authorized a warrantless National Security Agency surveillance operation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

What is the N.S.A.?
Thirty years ago, Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who was then chairman of the select committee on intelligence, investigated the agency and came away stunned.

"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.". . . He added that if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.". . .

"I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge," Senator Church said. "I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
[Boston Globe] The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA. . .
If this is true, as is being reported in multiple papers, then it seems the assistant Attorney General, the President and Vice President have been misleading Congress, as well as the public. Asst. Attorney General William Moschella has this week written Senate and House intelligence committee leaders, "As described by the President, the NSA intercepts certain international communications into and out of the United States of people linked to al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization." But SIGINT experts are telling the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the NYT, that the NSA is likely monitoring far more than that. . .

On second reading, what's most interesting in Assistant Attorney General Moschella's recent letter, is that Moschella does not say that he himself is saying that the interception of international communications by US persons was confined to those "linked" to al Qaeda. Moschella is saying, "As described by President Bush, the NSA intercepts...." In other words, Moschella is saying Bush himself owns that statement.

It was Yoo. . .
[Jeralyn Merritt]

• It was Yoo who drafted the infamous memo saying the Geneva Conventions were "seriously flawed" and the U.S. wasn't bound by them in treating al Qaeda prisoners.

• It was Yoo who drafted the memo with this definition of torture: declared that, to be considered torture, techniques must produce lasting psychological damage or suffering "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

• It was Yoo who said the President was not bound by FISA or federal eavesdropping laws when conducting electronic surveillance when one party was outside the United States. Yoo believes in wartime, the constitution gives the president unlimited power.
[Andrew Rice] The WP reefers a profile of John Yoo, who is not exactly doing his part to uphold the image of Berkeley law professors. The author of the now-infamous memos justifying torture of alleged terrorists and eavesdropping on American citizens says that he's not concerned that one newspaper editorial board says his way of thinking "threatens the very idea of America." He tells the paper: "It would be inappropriate for a lawyer to say, 'The law means A, but I'm going to say B because to interpret it as A would violate American values." Perhaps he ought to check on that with the American Bar Association. . .

Yoo’s intellectual dishonesty:


Congress passes McCain’s anti-torture amendment, then immediately renders it irrelevant

Iraq on the brink
At least five Iraqis and a U.S. soldier were killed in violence in Iraq on Sunday as fresh street protests over election results kept up tension that has soured the mood after a peaceful ballot 10 days ago. . .

President Jalal Talabani, meeting the U.S. ambassador who is mediating in efforts to transform the newly inclusive parliament into a viable government, urged Sunni leaders to join a new, broader coalition. Otherwise there would be no peace, he warned.

Disappointed Sunni and secular parties have demanded a rerun of the December 15 election and threatened to boycott parliament, a move that could damage U.S. hopes of forging a consensus that can keep Iraq from breaking up in ethnic and sectarian warfare. . .

Talabani said: "Without the Sunni parties there will be no consensus government ... without consensus government there will be no unity, there will be no peace."
[Juan Cole] Sunni Arab cabinet ministers requested that the United Iraqi Alliance donate 10 of their seats to Sunni Arab candidates. Apparently they hoped such a gesture would mollify Sunni Arab activists who believe that the Shiites unfairly stole the election. The UIA declined, nor would such a gesture probably have been legal.

Sunnis rallied again on Sunday against the election outcome, crying fraud, at Baqubah in the northeast and Fallujah west of the capital. In Baqubah after the demonstrations, guerrilla groups engaged local Iraqi police, killing 4 of them and wounding 15.
[Georgia10] "We went to a wedding, and it turned into a funeral". . . That is the sentiment of Sunni Arabs in the wake of the Iraq election. Sunni leaders had high hopes when they decided to participate--rather than boycott--the elections. Despite a strong turnout, they received relatively few number of seats in the permanent government, leading many to claim widespread fraud.

The most prominent Sunnis who won the election were disqualified on Friday on suspicions they were high-ranking officials in Saddam's Baath Party. The decision to oust the most prominent Sunni winners has put the whole country on edge. . .

As Ohio goes, so goes the nation?,1,5753674.story
But the sheer volume of corruption in Ohio, a state that helped decide the 2004 presidential election, offers a testing ground for the public tolerance of corruption as the midterm elections approach. Democrats are sizing up the state as an opportunity to improve their fortunes nationally in 2006. . . Nationally, Democrats are trying to exploit the Republicans' legal and ethical lapses with the chorus of a "culture of corruption.". . .

Jeannie Goletz, a bookkeeper at the shop, says she chooses not to read the stories about Ney because she does not want to believe they are true. She says the good things Ney has done for the district should outweigh the negatives, whatever they are. . .

More on the GOP culture of corruption:

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

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