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Updated: 1 hour 36 min ago

DNI McConnell: ‘Americans Are Going To Die’ If We Keep Talking About Wiretapping

Wed, 2007-08-22 16:30

Earlier this month, Congress caved to President Bush and passed legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, vastly expanding Bush’s powers to wiretap American citizens without court oversight. In an extensive interview with the El Paso Times, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell decried continued public discussion of the wiretapping program, claiming Americans, particularly in Iraq, would “die” because of the debate.

Q: So you’re saying that the reporting and the debate in Congress means that some Americans are going to die?

McCONNELL: That’s what I mean. Because we have made it so public. We used to do these things very differently

Despite forewarning of the death of Americans, McConnell freely “pulled the curtain back” on previously declassified information about surveillance in the interview. Explaining details ranging from secret court rulings to information on obtaining wiretapping warrants, McConnell “raised eyebrows” for his “frank discussion of previously classified eavesdropping work” conducted under FISA.

Some highlights of McConnell’s revelations:

Court ruling declared Bush’s program illegal on May 31: “After the 31st of May we were in extremis because now we have significantly less capability” when a federal court ruled part of the wiretapping program illegal, McConnell said.

Private sector actively involved in wiretapping program: “Under the president’s program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us,” said McConnell. “Now if you play out the suits at the value they’re claimed, it would bankrupt these companies,” McConnell said, arguing for legal immunity for the companies when Congress returns from recess.

McConnell denies White House involvement: “The president’s guidance to me early in the process, was, ‘You’ve got the experience. I trust your judgement. You make the right call. There’s no pressure from anybody here,” McConnell claimed.

Thousands overseas are being monitored via warrants. “Offering never-disclosed figures, McConnell also revealed that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under FISA warrants. However, he said, thousands of people overseas are monitored,” states the AP.

Takes 200 hours to assemble a wiretapping warrant:
McConnell alleged that “the issue is volume and time” as to why he was so adamant about pursuing warrantless wiretapping. “My argument was that the intelligence community should not be restricted. … It takes about 200 man hours to do one telephone number.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) said he believes McConnell declassified the information in this interview because he “wanted to push back on accusations that the legislation gave the attorney general unprecedented new powers.” “I think they felt they had to become more public,” said Hoekstra.

The Bush administration seems to believe it is permissible to talk about illegal wiretapping to save face, but not okay for Americans to question them about it.

Read the full interview HERE. TPM Muckraker has more.

Bush’s tragic literary allusion.

Wed, 2007-08-22 16:28

In his speech today, President Bush cited “Graham Greene’s classic Vietnam novel ‘The Quiet American’ which is essentially a contemplation on the road to hell being paved with good intentions.” The Swamp writes: “By reminding people of Greene’s book, Bush was inviting listeners to recall the mistakes his administration made in entering and prosecuting the Iraq War. Did he really want to do that?”

Fleischer Ignorant Of The Name Of Wounded Iraq Vet Featured In His TV Ad

Wed, 2007-08-22 15:15

On MSNBC’s Hardball tonight, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is leading a White House front group to defend Bush’s escalation, was unable to name the wounded Iraq veteran featured in his organization’s pro-war ad. “I don’t have his name in front of me,” said Fleischer when asked by host Mike Barnicle if he knew the soldier’s name.

Later in the program, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America executive director Paul Rieckhoff ripped into Fleischer’s offensive ignorance. “What bothered me the most is that Ari Fleischer didn’t even know the guy’s name.” said Rieckhoff. “He’s willing to run a multi-million dollar campaign, utilizing the personal story of a soldier, and he couldn’t tell you on national TV what that soldier’s name is.”

Rieckhoff described it as part of “a problematic trend” that Freedom’s Watch is using the soldier’s “personal story” as “a backdrop for political rhetoric”:

People on both sides of the aisle, but especially the president and this administration, have continued to use troops as a political prop. As a backdrop for political rhetoric. It’s why the president gave such an impassionate speech today in front of the VFW. It’s why this ad carries so much weight on a visceral level. And it really bothers me because our troops are not political props and they’re not chew toys.

Watch it:

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Fleischer and his team of Bush surrogates are spending $15 million to run the ad featuring the soldier, whose name is John Kriesel, in 20 states for a month. Hopefully, Fleischer will remember his name from now on.

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After Only 10 Hours In Iraq, Sens. Corker And Alexander See ‘Clear Success’

Wed, 2007-08-22 14:25

Returning from a trip to Iraq, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) “gave an upbeat report on progress in Iraq” to reporters this morning, saying they saw “clear success, province by province“:

Alexander said a strategy devised by Petraeus to work with local leaders and win them over to the U.S. cause has shown “clear success, province by province.”

“They are fed up with random murders of their children” by al-Qaida terrorists, he said.

“There are probably seven provinces where enough progress has been made to involve Iraqis in their own security,” claimed Alexander during the call with reporters.

Unmentioned in press accounts of Alexander and Corker’s trip, however, is the fact that they only spent half a day on the ground in Iraq.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), who organized the trip (which also included Sen. David Vitter), told reporters that only 10-14 hours out of their four-day trip was spent in Iraq. Voinovich’s communications director, Chris Paulitz, confirmed the duration of the delegation’s trip to ThinkProgress.

Despite the superficial, in and out nature of their trip, Corker and Alexander are pronouncing “significant progress” on the ground in Iraq. As former Washington Post Baghdad correspondent Jonathan Finer wrote this weekend, “there is good reason to be skeptical of such snapshot accounts“:

It goes without saying that everyone can, and in this country should, have an opinion about the war, no matter how much time the person has spent in Iraq, if any. But having left a year ago, I’ve stopped pretending to those who ask that I have a keen sense of what it’s like on the ground today. Similarly, those who pass quickly through the war zone should stop ascribing their epiphanies to what are largely ceremonial visits.

While politicians who spend a few hours in the “dog-and-pony show are claiming “significant progress,” soldiers who have been on the ground for 15 months are seeing a very different picture: “mounting civil, political and social unrest.”

Beck: All bloggers ‘live in their mom’s basement.’

Wed, 2007-08-22 14:11

Yesterday, GQ writer Ben Wallace, who recently wrote a profile on Glenn Beck, told the CNN Headline News host that he was “good at pushing the buttons of a certain, you know, set of bloggers, and so.” Beck responding by dismissing bloggers: “I mean, they all live in their mom’s basement anyway, so what difference does that make?” Watch it:

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Historian: Bush’s ‘distortion’ of Vietnam ‘boggles my mind.’

Wed, 2007-08-22 13:32

In his speech to Veterans of Foreign Wars today, President Bush declared that the lesson of Vietnam is that we must not withdraw from Iraq. UCLA historian Robert Dallek, who has written about the comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam, says Bush is “twisting history” with his new analogy:

“It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president,” he said in a telephone interview.

“We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn’t work our will,” he said.

“What is Bush suggesting? That we didn’t fight hard enough, stay long enough? That’s nonsense. It’s a distortion,” he continued. “We’ve been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. It’s a disaster, and this is a political attempt to lay the blame for the disaster on his opponents. But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out.”

(HT: Karen Tumulty)

Gen. Batiste’s Op-Ed That The WSJ And The Washington Times Didn’t Want You To See

Wed, 2007-08-22 12:40

Our guest blogger is Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste, the former Commanding General of 1st Infantry Division.

For my first post here at ThinkProgress, I thought I would share something a little different from what you usually read here — something from a conservative perspective. I think this is especially fitting, given the new poll of foreign policy experts by Foreign Policy Magazine and the Center for American Progress, which shows 64 percent of conservative analysts feel the so-called “surge” in Iraq is having no impact, or a negative effect.

The following is an op-ed I wrote two weeks ago, which neither the Wall Street Journal or Washington Times wanted to consider, so I’m posting it here…

Over a year and a half ago, I made a gut-wrenching decision to leave the Army in order to speak out about the war in Iraq. I turned my back on over 31 years of service and what by all accounts would have been a great career. I realized that I was in a unique position to speak out on behalf of Soldiers and their families. I had a moral obligation and duty to do so. My family and I left the only life we knew and entered the political debate. As a two-time combat veteran, I understand the value of thorough planning and deliberate execution. I understand what it takes to win. As a life-long Republican, I am prepared to carry on with the debate for as long as necessary. I have been speaking out for the past 17 months and there is no turning back.

As a conservative, I am all for a strong military and setting the conditions for success. America goes to war to win. I am not anti-war and am committed to winning the struggle against world-wide Islamic extremism. But, I am outraged that elected officials of my own party do not comprehend the predicament we are in with a strategy in the Middle East that lacks focus and is all but relying on the military to solve the diplomatic, political, and economic Rubik’s Cube that defines Iraq. Our dysfunctional interagency process in Washington DC lacks leadership and direction. Many conservatives in Congress have allowed the charade to go on for too long.

It is disappointing that so many elected representatives of my party continue to blindly support the administration rather than doing what is in the best interests of our country. Traditionally, my party has maintained a conservative view on questions regarding our Armed Forces. For example, we commit our military only when absolutely necessary. In the same way conservatives have always argued against government excess in social programs, the lives our young men and women in uniform, our most precious resource, are not to be used on wars of choice or for nation building. The military theorist Carl von Clausewitz taught us that wars are to be fought only as a last resort–the extension of politics by other means.


Bolton: I ‘Absolutely’ Hope The U.S. Will Attack Iran In The Next ‘Six Months’

Wed, 2007-08-22 11:41

Yesterday, Raw Story pointed out that former CIA operative Bob Baer told Fox News that the Bush administration will likely attack Iran in the coming months. “Iran policy is on close hold, but the feeling is we will hit the Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps sometime next six months or so,” said Baer.

Today, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton appeared on Fox News and responded. He said that while he couldn’t confirm Baer’s statements, he “absolutely” hoped they were true:

HEMMER: One final step here, too, that I want to take with you. You told one of our producers earlier today that you don’t know if it’s true — and you’ve made that clear in our interview here, that you don’t know what the odds are or are not against that — but you hope it’s true. Why do you hope it’s true?

BOLTON: Absolutely. I hope Iran understands that we are very serious, that we are determined they are not going to get a nuclear weapon capability, and unless they change the strategic decision they’ve been pursuing for close to 20 years, that that’s something they better factor into their calculations.

Watch it:

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Bolton’s calls for strikes against Iran mirror those of other neocons, such as Bill Kristol and Michael Rubin, who also pushed for the Iraq invasion. Bolton’s claim that “Iran is interfering in Iraq and is posing a direct threat to our troops” is not a reason to strike the country. In reality, both Gen. Peter Pace and the National Intelligence Estimate have confirmed that Iran is “not likely” to be a major driver of violence in Iraq.

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Transcript: (more…)

NYT claims ‘anti-war activists’ protest military funerals.

Wed, 2007-08-22 11:08

Editor and Publisher reports:

In a report [yesterday] on Sen. Barack Obama’s appearance this week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleney took a decidedly wrong turn in referring to one statement.

Zeleney wrote that Obama “said it was wrong for anti-war activists to protest at military funerals, declaring: ‘It needs to stop’.”

The quote at the end was accurate but nowhere did Obama refer to the protesters as “anti-war activists.” In fact, the protesters who have caused much outrage have been anti-gay activists.

For children’s health before they were against it.

Wed, 2007-08-22 10:25

The New York Times reported this week that the Bush administration is thwarting states’ attempts to expand the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program beyond the poverty level. But for more than six years, the Bush administration was a strong advocate of the same provision it now opposes. Dave Meyer writes, “The administration regularly touted the system’s flexibility as the key to its efficiency and a model for other federal health programs. Now the Republicans are attacking SCHIP for that same flexibility.”

Post-War Bush Forgets Pre-War Bush’s ‘Lessons Of Vietnam’

Wed, 2007-08-22 09:29

Prior the Iraq war, George W. Bush claimed that he had learned some powerful lessons from the Vietnam war. Among those lessons were the fact that U.S. must be “slow to engage troops.” “We can never again ask the military to fight a political war,” Bush said, adding that “the cause must be just”:

A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear and the victory must be overwhelming. [Bush address to RNC convention, 8/4/00]

The Republican presidential front-runner also says he learned “the lesson of Vietnam.” “Our nation should be slow to engage troops. But when we do so, we must do so with ferocity. We must not go into a conflict unless we go in committed to win. We can never again ask the military to fight a political war,” Bush wrote. [AP, 11/15/99, reporting on Bush’s biography A Charge To Keep]

Forgetting entirely the lessons that he claimed to have learned from a war in which he did not serve, Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 hastily, without just cause, and lacking a clear goal. For years, he maintained Iraq and Vietnam had no similarities. In April 2004, he said:

QUESTION: How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

BUSH: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops, and sends the wrong message to the enemy.

Today, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush accepted the fact that Vietnam does have lessons for Iraq. But the lesson, according to Bush, is that it is a mistake to pull out of a quagmire. “[O]ne unmistakable legacy of Vietnam,” Bush said, is that “the price of America’s withdrawal” is steep and painful. Watch it:

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Bush’s lessons learned from Vietnam have shifted as frequently as his justifications for staying in Iraq. With the present and the future course of Iraq on a disastrous course, Bush’s only alternative is to change history.

UPDATE: The Democratic Caucus has more information on Bush’s stance against Vietnam before he was for it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s statement is here.

International criminal flew U.S. supply missions in Iraq.

Wed, 2007-08-22 09:22

“The U.S. government paid a wanted international criminal roughly $60 million to fly supplies into Iraq in support of the war effort,” alleges the new book “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Plans, and the Man Who Makes War Possible.” Arms merchant and international trafficker Viktor Bout is considered “one of the greatest threats to U.S. interests,” yet in 2003, he managed to get a job with KBR “flying supplies into newly-invaded Iraq as a subcontractor to U.S. military contractors.”

Voinovich refuses to comment on Iraq trip.

Wed, 2007-08-22 08:40

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) just returned from a quick 10 to 14 hour trip to Iraq, in which he met “with soldiers, civilians, Iraqi officials and U.S. military leaders including commanding Gen. David Petraeus.” But, unlike most lawmakers who return from the war-torn country, Voinovich is refusing to offer an assessment of what he saw on his trip. “He’s not going to get into that right now — what’s working, what’s not working, is the surge working,” his spokesman, Chris Paulitz, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s not really interested in a soundbite response.”

Hatch voices support for mining official Stickler.

Wed, 2007-08-22 07:51

“Richard Stickler is a very competent MSHA official. He has done his best to see that the job is done right. He cares greatly about these miners,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). But many experts have questioned why Stickler allowed “anyone, including rescuers, into the still-dangerous” Crandall Canyon mine. Stickler is a former coal official whom the Senate had twice rejected because the mines he managed “incurred injury rates double the national average.”

UPDATE: Zappatero at SquareState has more.

Original Iraq War Propagandist Ari Fleischer Returns To Flack For Bush’s Escalation

Wed, 2007-08-22 07:07

Beginning today, Freedom’s Watch, a new right-wing front group for the White House, “will unveil a month-long, $15 million television, radio and grass-roots campaign” to pressure Congress to continue supporting President Bush’s disastrous Iraq strategy. The group, which is “funded by high-profile Republicans who were aides and supporters of President Bush,” is headed by a familiar face from the Bush war effort: former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

The privately-funded ad campaign will run in 20 states, featuring Iraq war vets and families of fallen soldiers arguing that the war should continue. The four ads produced so far by Fleischer’s Freedom’s Watch group contain little more than fear-mongering about an Iraq pullout. “They attacked us and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq,” one ad says. “It will mean more attacks in America,” says another. Yet another ad warns, “We’ve already had one 9/11, we don’t need another.”

Likening himself to a battlefield general, Fleischer said, “For people who believe in peace through strength, the cavalry is coming.” Below are some examples of Fleischer’s well-established record of propagating false assertions and rosy predictions about Iraq:

“[T]here’s no question that if force is used, it will achieve the objective of preserving the peace far faster than the current path that we’re on.” [2/14/03]

“[G]iven the chance to throw off a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein, people will rejoice.” [3/21/03]

“[W]hen you take a look at the level of violence inside of Iraq, it is impossible to argue anything other than violence has, indeed, come down as a result of America’s military operations.” [6/25/03]

“My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors.” [10/11/02]

“There have been contacts between senior members of — senior Iraqi officials and members of the al Qaeda organization, going back for quite a long time. … Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. There are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda.” [1/27/03]

“There is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. … And all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.” [3/21/03]

“The fact of the matter is, one of the reasons the Iraqi people are supportive of the efforts we’ve had there is because of the effort that’s been done in the reconstruction phase.” [7/1/03]

“I think that if you look at the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people are overwhelmingly pleased with the fact the United States has helped them to get rid of the Saddam Hussein regime. That was clear from their dancing in the streets, from the way they tore down the statues. And I think that is the viewpoint of the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people.” [7/1/03]

“[N]o, I don’t think there’s any chance of losing the peace, but it is going to be a battle to continue to win the peace.” [5/19/03]

Not content having misled the nation into war, Fleischer and his White House front group are now set to argue that the bloodiest summer of the war yet is a sign that “that the buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq is working.”

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UPDATE: Joe Sudbay at Americablog notes that “Iraq has always been a political issue for the Bush team.”

UPDATE II: Tom Matzzie, the campaign manager of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, has written an open letter to Fleischer, complete with a chart of where the ads are targeted.

Fox Attacks: Iran.

Wed, 2007-08-22 06:57

Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films has released a new video as part of its ongoing Fox Attacks series. “Fox Attacks: Iran” reveals the network’s efforts to beat the drums for a war against Iran. The ad shows Fox fear-mongering and inflating the threat much the way it did prior to the Iraq war. Watch the ad below, and take action here.

ThinkFast: August 22, 2007

Wed, 2007-08-22 06:03

A White House manual released recently discloses extensive instructions given to White House staffers in the art of “deterring potential protestors” from Bush’s public appearances. The manual demonstrates “that the White House has a policy of excluding and/or attempting to squelch dissenting viewpoints from presidential events,” said ACLU lawyer Jonathan Miller.

President Bush, who avoided military duty in Vietnam, will open a new theme in support of sticking with the battle of Iraq today by warning Iraq critics against committing the errors of Vietnam. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded that “the fundamental difference” between the conflicts is that Bush generated support for “the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses.”

A U.S. Army helicopter crashed north of Baghdad early Wednesday morning, killing all 14 soldiers onboard, the military said. The AP reports it is the deadliest crash since January 2005.

The Pentagon has seen a “sharp drop” in black active-duty recruits since the Iraq war began, falling to “to 13 percent in 2006 from 20 percent in 2001, the last year before the invasion of Iraq began to seem inevitable.” A recent CBS News poll found that 83 percent of blacks believe the United States was wrong to invade Iraq, compared to just 46 percent of whites.

Yesterday, Crandall Canyon mine co-owner Robert Murray said that while he plans to “abandon any effort” to mine at the site of the initial collapse where six miners were trapped, he believes “that other parts of the mine remained safe for work and that mining should resume.” An MSHA official said he was “shocked that the subject was even brought up.” (more…)

White House claims it can keep e-mails secret.

Tue, 2007-08-21 19:30

Today in the “the latest effort by the Bush administration to expand the boundaries of government secrecy,” the Justice Department said that “records about missing White House e-mails are not subject to public disclosure. Administration lawyers detailed the legal position in a lawsuit trying to force the White House Office of Administration to reveal what it knows” about the disappearance of at least 5 million White House e-mails.

McCain: I predicted the Rumsfeld strategy would fail.

Tue, 2007-08-21 16:14

Last night on the Charlie Rose show, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who proclaims himself to be “the greatest critic” of the past four years of the Iraq war — said, “I predicted that we would fail when I saw the Rumsfeld strategy that was being employed. And I railed and spoke against it and did everything I could to change it.” (Some examples of his “railings” here.) Asked if there was a moment in time where he could envision himself supporting a withdrawal, McCain said, “I think in the months ahead — plural — that you will see continued progress on the military side and I think that can be encouraging for us to have a strategy where…we gradually withdraw.” Watch it:

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Consumer comfort in economy plunges.

Tue, 2007-08-21 15:30

“The Washington Post-ABC News consumer comfort index (CCI), a barometer of the public’s assessment of current economic conditions, plunged nine points this week, the biggest ever one-week drop since the poll started in late 1985. The CCI now stands at -20 on its scale of –100 to +100, well off its high for the year, +2 in March, and near its post-Hurricane Katrina lows.”