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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal gains steam.

Mon, 2007-08-06 08:09

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network reports, “Five new lawmakers, including the highest ranking military veteran in Congress, have joined 126 other lawmakers in supporting legislation to repeal the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel. Representatives Michael A. Arcuri (D-NY), Brian Baird (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D- CA), Joe Sestak (D-PA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) all became co-sponsors of The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1246) on Friday, bringing the total number of supporters to 131. Sestak is Congress’s highest-ranking veteran, having served 31 years in the United States Navy and retiring as a 3-star Admiral.”

Secret call log in spying challenge mistakenly released.

Mon, 2007-08-06 07:26

A “top secret” document containing a “log of calls intercepted between an Islamic charity and its American lawyers” is at the heart of “the strongest case against the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program.” AP reports today though that the government has accidentally released it:

In 2004, as the Treasury Department was considering whether to include the group on its list of terrorist organizations, Al-Haramain’s Washington lawyer, Lynne Bernabei, asked to see the evidence.

That’s when, in a case of bureaucratic bungling, Treasury officials mistakenly handed over the call log — which has the words “top secret” stamped on every page — along with press clippings and other unclassified documents deemed relevant to the case.

Six weeks later, the FBI was dispatched to Bernabei’s office to retrieve it. But by then she had passed out copies to five other lawyers, a Washington Post reporter and two Al-Haramain directors.

Palmer withdraws EEOC nomination.

Mon, 2007-08-06 06:47

“David Palmer, whose nomination to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had languished for nearly a year, withdrew his name over the weekend, bitterly complaining that partisanship in the confirmation process has gotten out of control.” Former Justice Department colleagues opposed Palmer’s nomination, and he was “the subject of at least one complaint of employee abuse in his supervisory role at the Justice Department.”

ThinkFast: August 6, 2007

Mon, 2007-08-06 06:06

In an editorial entitled, “Warrantless Surrender,” the Washington Post writes that Congress was “stampeded into another compromise of Americans’ rights.” The Post adds the bill was “as reckless as it was unnecessary” and “was scarcely considered at all.”

Most Americans disapprove of the Iraq war and of exporting democracy by force, yet neoconservative proponents of those policies advise the leading Republican presidential hopefuls. “There is an overwhelming presence of neoconservatives and absence of traditional conservatives that I don’t know what to make of,” said Richard Allen, former Reagan White House national security adviser.

The NY Times writes, “One part of the Justice Department mess that requires more scrutiny is the growing evidence that the department may have singled out people for criminal prosecution to help Republicans win elections.” One especially egregious case appears to be that of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, whose conviction is “disturbingly weak.”

The Pentagon has lost track of about 30 percent of the weapons given to Iraqi forces, raising fears they have landed in insurgents’ hands. 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols have vanished. The GAO reported that the weapons distribution “was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005, when security training was led by Gen. David H. Petraeus.”

Fox pundit Bill Kristol claimed the Minneapolis bridge collapse didn’t “symbolize any great failure of our infrastructure.” Bush said he would veto a bill that would increase the national bridge and highway maintenance budget from $4 billion to $5 billion. Sen. Chuck Schumer warned, “Our maintenance of our bridges and highways [has] been cut back for too long.” (more…)

War destroys Iraq’s once-thriving artistic community.

Sun, 2007-08-05 19:18

“Baghdad’s once-flourishing community of artists has all but evaporated. Streets formerly lined with galleries are now deserted, and the artists who remain say they have not sold a piece since the U.S.-led invasion.” Approximately 90 percent of artists who were working in the capital in early 2003 have been killed or have fled the country. Muayad Muhsin, an Iraqi painter, said that he refuses to leave and give into the violence: “War destroys art, but I have a responsibility to be here in my country.”

Muhsin’s “Picnic,” depicting Donald Rumsfeld is below:

Last night at the YearlyKos convention,

Sun, 2007-08-05 08:30

DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga offered a stirring defense of the progressive blogosphere. Read the full speech here.

UPDATE: Watch it:

Below is a key snippet:

[Before the blogosphere arose,] people like me could spend hours talking about politics, but it mattered little in the greater scheme of things. Then technology changed everything.

Whether it was blogs, or podcasting, or social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, or MoveOn, or YouTube, people quickly adopted myriad communication technologies emerging from the web and turned them to political purposes. Millions did so.

And while individually we were still nobodies, together, we became … somebody. A very important somebody. And that makes some people very uncomfortable.


Pelosi, Conyers offer legislation to amend FISA.

Sun, 2007-08-05 08:00

Shortly after passing legislation to temporarily expand the administration’s spying authority under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Conyers introduced a bill to amend that legislation “as soon as possible.”

ThinkProgress is leaving Chicago.

Sun, 2007-08-05 07:00

Unfortunately, that means we can’t do our regular monitoring of Sunday shows. Let us know what we missed. We’re looking forward to getting back to our regular posting tomorrow.

Iraq power grid near collapse.

Sun, 2007-08-05 04:32

Iraq’s power grid “is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid.” There have been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days and the “shortages across the country are the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.” More on Baghdad’s electricity situation HERE.

During Politicized FISA Debate, Nadler Forced To Withdraw ‘Truthful And Accurate Statement’ That Bush Broke The Law

Sat, 2007-08-04 20:11

Yesterday, under heavy political pressure from the White House, the Senate approved a bill that provided expansive spying authority for the Bush administration. The White House had earlier rejected a compromise bill that provided powers sought by the Director of National Intelligence, opting instead to play politics with the issue.

Moments ago, the House passed the White House-backed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill by a 227-183 vote.

During the heated House floor debate over the legislation, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said the White House-backed FISA legislation was nothing more than a political ploy:

This bill is what Karl Rove and his political operatives in the White House have decided they need to win elections. That’s not national security. That’s political warfare.

I do not believe we will soon be able to undo this damage. Rights given away are not easily regained. This bill is not needed to protect America from terrorists. The only purpose of this bill is to protect this administration from its own political problems and cynicism, and its own illegal actions it has taken outside the law without any authorization.

In a symbolic move that reflected the efforts by many conservatives to politicize the FISA debate, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) immediately rose and asked that Nadler withdraw his statement that the Bush administration had conducted illegal activities.

After some pause, Nadler said he would withdraw his “truthful and accurate statements” in order to proceed with the floor debate. Issa, unhappy with Nadler’s retraction, said, “He is not withdrawing it if he claims they’re accurate.” Nadler responded, “I’m withdrawing them without any reservation but I retain my opinion.” Watch it:

Issa’s comments reflected the nature of the FISA debate — conservatives were more concerned with providing political cover for the White House than passing legislation that addressed national security concerns.

Nadler’s comments are hardly inaccurate. The current FISA debate was precipitated by the fact that a court had ruled the administration’s spying actions were outside the law. Just this week, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) revealed a secret court ruling that found “a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal.”

Giuliani’s former anti-terrorism chief voices stern criticism.

Sat, 2007-08-04 19:05

Rudy Guiliani’s former emergency management director, Jerome Hauer, blamed the former mayor for “locating the city’s crisis control room in the World Trade Center complex, even though it was a known terrorist target after the 1993 truck bomb attack which killed six people at the site.” Hauer said Giuliani rejected a facility in Brooklyn in favor of because “the mayor himself made clear that the site had to be walking distance from City Hall.” He added, “Rudy would make a terrible president and that is why I am speaking now.”

Afghanistan ‘cements’ status as top heroin source.

Sat, 2007-08-04 14:20

Afghanistan “will produce another record poppy harvest this year that cements its status as the world’s near-sole supplier of the heroin source, yet a furious debate over how to reverse the trend is stalling proposals to cut the crop, U.S. officials say.”

Iraqis forced to use separate latrines from U.S. contractors.

Sat, 2007-08-04 13:44

At the U.S. Forward Operating base in Iraq, Iraqis — including interpreters — are forced to use separate latrines from U.S. troops. The sign taped to the men’s restroom reads, “US Military Contractors Civilians Only!!!!!” One soldier at the base cited Iraqi “hygiene habits” as a reason for the separation.

McClatchy adds, “Another sign, in a dining hall, warns Iraqis and ‘third-country nationals’ that they have just one hour for breakfast, lunch or dinner. American troops get three hours. Iraqis say they sometimes wait as long as 45 minutes in hot lines to get inside the chow hall, leaving just 15 minutes to get their food and eat it.”

Right-wing effort to embarrass Murtha fails.

Sat, 2007-08-04 12:50

The Crypt reports:

House Republicans sought to rebuke Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) Friday night for his actions while presiding over the chamber earlier in the day. […]

Sitting in the chair, Murtha overruled GOP requests for a recorded vote to approve the previous day’s record despite an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the chamber, even though rules dictate the party with the majority can force a vote. […]

Republicans, still fuming over the contested vote, were upset all day that Democratic leaders chose Murtha to preside over the House, given his reputation as a hardball politician who once threatened a Michigan Republican on the House floor.

YearlyKos presidential forum.

Sat, 2007-08-04 11:47

Seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates are currently speaking at the YearlyKos conference. Watch a live stream:

Liveblogging updates at Dave Johnson, Feministe, TalkLeft, Swampland and Eschaton.

UPDATE: AP has a story on the presidential forum, noting that the “candidates were put on the spot from the start.”

DoJ held political briefings.

Fri, 2007-08-03 22:29

“Justice Department officials attended at least a dozen political briefings at the White House since 2001, including some meetings led by Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, and others that were focused on election trends prior to the 2006 midterm contest, according to documents released yesterday.” In June, the Office of Special Counsel found that political briefings held at the General Services Administration violated the law. “Inappropriate” political briefings were even given to diplomats. See more on Karl Rove’s politicization of the federal government HERE.

State Dpmt: Tancredo ‘absolutely crazy.’

Fri, 2007-08-03 21:42

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) today stood by his previous argument that the U.S. should threat to bomb Mecca in order to “deter” future attacks on the homeland. Tom Casey, a deputy spokesman for the State Department, told CNN that the congressman’s comments were “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy.”

Reid, Pelosi and Emanuel to miss YearlyKos.

Fri, 2007-08-03 16:40

Due to the House remaining in session tomorrow “to consider an energy bill, delaying the start of the August recess by a day,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Rahm Emanuel are officially canceling their scheduled YearlyKos Convention appearances. Sen. Charles Schumer may still be able to attend the Ask The Leaders forum, but convention organziers will not know for sure until late Friday evening.

White House Uses Its Own Illegal Conduct To Wage Political Offensive Over FISA Legislation

Fri, 2007-08-03 15:29

Earlier today, the White House rejected an agreement that had been struck between congressional leaders and the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), opting instead to launch a fresh political offensive over its spying activities. House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) explained to CQ (sub. req.) the administration pushed for more changes after Democrats reached an agreement with McConnell:

“DNI McConnell told us, ‘We need these three things.’ We gave them to him. Then he turned around and said, ‘Well, I have some other concerns.’”

Spencer Ackerman reports that the White House weighed in and overruled McConnell’s agreement with the congressional leaders. Bush declared today that he was “going to ask Congress to stay in session until they pass a bill” to his liking. The White House communications department then spammed reporters with “fact sheets” and emails about “why America needs FISA reform now.”

A central reason for the rush to push FISA legislation through Congress was revealed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) during an appearance on Fox News earlier this week when he made reference to a secret legal opinion declaring “a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal.” “There’s been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people” Boehner told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. Watch it:

In the decision, a “judge, whose name could not be learned, concluded early this year that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States.” The legislation hammered out with McConnell fixes the holes created by the ruling, but the congressional leadership rejects “the administration’s insistence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales be given an expanded role to oversee the program.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said “the administration proposal to grant Gonzales greater authority ‘is simply unacceptable’” in light of “allegations that the embattled attorney general has misled Congress about legal disputes over the surveillance program.”

After illegally conducting the spying program, the White House and surrogates like Boehner are using the FISA legislation to score political points. Tell Congress not to cave in to fear by rubber stamping a spying program without proper oversight HERE.

UPDATE: Marty Lederman and Jack Balkin explain the details of the legislation and the White House’s opposition. The AP reports the White House and congressional leaders have broken off talks.

Top general warned Bush on Tillman death.

Fri, 2007-08-03 14:59

The AP reports that one day after approving a medal claiming former NFL player Pat Tillman had been cut down by “devastating enemy fire” in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal tried to warn President Bush that the story might not be true.

In a sometimes contentious November interview under oath and via videoconference, Pentagon investigators sharply questioned McChrystal about the conflicting accounts, according to the testimony obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act.

McChrystal acknowledged he had suspected several days prior to approving the Silver Star citation on April 28, 2004, that Tillman may have died by fratricide.

He said that suspicion led him to send a memo to top generals imploring “our nation’s leaders,” specifically “POTUS” — the acronym for the president — to avoid cribbing the “devastating enemy fire” explanation from the award citation for their speeches.

“Why did you recommend the Silver Star one day and then the next day send a secret back-channel message warning the country’s leaders about using information from the Silver Star in public speeches because they might be embarrassed if they do?” an investigator asked McChrystal.

Despite numerous questions, the general never directly explained the discrepancies.

Despite this apparent contradiction, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was spared punishment in the latest review of Tillman’s shooting.