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Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

White House opposes declassifying WMD report.

Mon, 2007-06-25 07:32

“The White House is resisting a move by both Republicans and Democrats to fully declassify a Senate report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction,” believing the declassification “would trigger another round of negative news media coverage and Democratic-led congressional hearings, said a Senate Republican, who asked to remain anonymous because of ongoing private discussions.”

U.S. attorney was ‘cheerleading’ for GOP caging scheme.

Mon, 2007-06-25 07:00

Just four days before the 2004 elections, Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta — who is now a U.S. attorney in Ohio — sent an “unusual letter” to a federal judge in Ohio who “was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly African American voters” in a caging scheme. Acosta argued in favor of the Republican party. “Robert Kengle, former deputy chief of the department’s Voting Rights Section who served under Acosta, said the letter amounted to ‘cheerleading for the Republican defendants.’”

ThinkFast: June 25, 2007

Mon, 2007-06-25 06:08

An expose of News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch shows how his “vast media holdings give him a gamut of tools” to further his financial and political interests — “not just campaign contributions, but also jobs for former government officials and media exposure that promotes allies while attacking adversaries, sometimes viciously.”

The Bush administration has begun “exploring ways of offering Congress a compromise deal on Iraq policy to avert bruising battles in coming months.” Senior administration officials have discussed advocating a “sharply decentralized Iraq, a notion that has seen a resurgence on Capitol Hill.”

“Michael Moore’s latest film, ‘Sicko,’ was a smash hit over the weekend. The documentary about the health care industry was sold out at all its ’sneak’ screenings in 43 locations around the country including Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit.”

Elizabeth Edwards “kicked off San Francisco’s annual gay pride parade Sunday by splitting with her husband,” former senator John Edwards, over marriage equality. “I don’t know why someone else’s marriage has anything to do with me,” Mrs. Edwards said. “I’m completely comfortable with gay marriage.”

The U.S. commander of a new offensive north of Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, said yesterday that Iraqi forces “may be too weak to hold onto the gains.” The Iraqi military does not even have enough ammunition, Bednarek said. “They’re not quite up to the job yet.” (more…)

All the vice president’s men.

Sun, 2007-06-24 20:21

The Washington Post has posted the second in its four-part series on Dick Cheney. (Read part one here.) The most recent article develops in more detail the role of Alberto Gonzales as one of Cheney’s key enablers:

On June 8, 2004, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell learned of the two-year-old torture memo for the first time from an article in The Washington Post. According to a former White House official with firsthand knowledge, they confronted Gonzales together in his office.

Rice “very angrily said there would be no more secret opinions on international and national security law,” the official said, adding that she threatened to take the matter to the president if Gonzales kept them out of the loop again. Powell remarked admiringly, as they emerged, that Rice dressed down the president’s lawyer “in full Nurse Ratched mode,” a reference to the ward chief of a mental hospital in the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Neither of them took their objections to Cheney, the official said, a much more dangerous course.

In another instance, the article recounts a meeting over the administration’s denial of due process to detainees. At the meeting, “Gonzales listened quietly as the Justice Department and his own staff lined up against [Cheney lawyer David] Addington. Then he decided in favor of Cheney’s lawyer.”

UPDATE: More from Atrios and Laura Rozen.

Number of blacks in the military plunges.

Sun, 2007-06-24 18:19

“The number of blacks joining the military has plunged by more than one-third since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began. … According to Pentagon data, there were nearly 51,500 new black recruits for active duty and reserves in 2001. That number fell to less than 32,000 in 2006, a 38 percent decline.”

Moore talks health care with industry lobbyists.

Sun, 2007-06-24 14:10

Michael Moore recently put out newspaper advertisements inviting 900 health care industry lobbyists to a free screening of his new film SiCKO. But at the showing last week, only about 11 showed up. Before the screening, Moore held a Q&A with the lobbyists, explaining why he made the film and defending his arguments. Watch it:

On Friday, The Progress Report presented factual back-up for many of the themes of the film. Read it HERE.

The Iraq war’s ‘most severely wounded soldier.’

Sun, 2007-06-24 14:03

“He lies flat, unseeing eyes fixed on the ceiling, tubes and machines feeding him, breathing for him, keeping him alive. He cannot walk or talk, but he can grimace and cry. And he is fully aware of what has happened to him.”

Four years ago almost to this day, Joseph Briseno Jr. was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range in a Baghdad marketplace. His spinal cord was shattered, and cardiac arrests stole his vision and damaged his brain.

The 24-year-old is one of the most severely injured soldiers — some think the most injured soldier — to survive. […]

He can respond to questions by grunting or grimacing, and occasionally can say “mom” or “go,” but not consistently. He often opens his mouth.

“We believe he is very frustrated because he wants to say something. Those are the hardest times for us, especially when he’s sick or not feeling well. He just lays there. We don’t know what’s wrong with him,” Joseph Briseno said.

(Via Atrios)

‘Everyone we now fight in Iraq is al Qaida.’

Sun, 2007-06-24 12:58

Glenn Greenwald takes note of the increasing propensity of journalists to follow the administration’s lead in describing all Iraqi fighters as al Qaeda:

That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term “Al Qaeda” to designate “anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq” is obvious. … But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. […]

What makes this practice all the more disturbing is how quickly and obediently the media has adopted the change in terms consciously issued by the Bush administration and their military officials responsible for presenting the Bush view of the war to the press.

Gonzales apparently not probing Cheney exemption.

Sun, 2007-06-24 09:46

After Vice President Cheney’s office refused to follow a presidential order on classification procedures, National Archives official J. William Leonard asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to have the Office of Legal Counsel help solve the impasse. Justice Dept. officials said last week that the matter has been “under review” for five months. But it appears that’s not the case:

[O]n June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had “no documents” on the matter… Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter “puzzling and inexplicable” — especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response “was and remains accurate” because Leonard’s letter had generated no “substantive work product.”

House oversight chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) now says he will investigate Gonzales’ handling of the issue.

Russert: ISG Commissioners Say Giuliani’s Excuse For Leaving Is Untrue

Sun, 2007-06-24 09:00

Earlier this week, Newsday reported that former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani quit the Iraq Study Group after co-chairman James Baker offered “him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit.” Giuliani had failed to show up for a single meeting during the two months he was a member of the commission.

In response to the story, Giuliani said he left the group because he “didn’t want the group’s work to become a political football” for his nascent presidential campaign, a claim that has been thoroughly debunked.

On Meet The Press this morning, host Tim Russert offered more evidence that politics was not an issue in Giuliani’s decision to leave the ISG. “Several commission members have said to me that presidential politics never entered the discussion,” said Russert. “It was all about Giuliani’s schedule and commitments versus showing up for the Iraq Study Group.” Watch it:

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As PBS’s Gwen Ifil pointed out, the important work of the Iraq Study Group should have come before any political considerations. “Even if it were his presidential ambitions,” said Ifill. “Is that really a good answer that you were so political that you rather focus on politics than focus on the nation’s security?”

Transcript: (more…)

Kristol Defends Cheney, Williams Says He’s Creating A ‘Secured Undisclosed Bunker Of His Mind’

Sun, 2007-06-24 08:10

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol defended Vice President Cheney’s decision to exempt himself from an executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information.

Kristol said the exemptions for the president and vice president were “reasonable enough.” He called it “a pain in the neck” to have “some bureaucrat” from the National Archives “come and inspect your safe to see whether you’re locking it up properly each night.”

NPR’s Juan Williams snapped back, noting that there is no text in the executive order that actually exempts Bush or Cheney. “This is all a dodge, this is a game,” Williams said, in order to “keep Dick Cheney in some kind of secured undisclosed bunker of his mind so he can’t let the American people know what’s going on with their government.” Williams charged, “He won’t tell people who’s visiting his house, who’s visiting his office. Scooter Libby is letting people know who works for the CIA as an agent. This is ridiculous.”

Watch it:

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Kristol was the only member of the Fox News Sunday panel to defend Cheney. Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume called the White House explanation a “dumb excuse,” and NPR’s Mara Liasson said it “doesn’t make any sense.”

Transcript: (more…)

More Afghans killed by U.S./NATO than militants.

Sun, 2007-06-24 06:36

“U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces fighting insurgents in Afghanistan have killed at least 203 civilians so far this year — surpassing the 178 civilians killed in militant attacks, according to an Associated Press tally.”

Washington Post Profile Reveals Stealthy Cheney Spies On White House Staffers

Sat, 2007-06-23 21:39

Today, the Washington Post unveiled the first in its lengthy four-part series on the unprecedented influence and power of the vice president.

Shortly after Bush was elected, “Cheney preferred, and Bush approved, a mandate that gave him access to ‘every table and every meeting,’ making his voice heard in ‘whatever area the vice president feels he wants to be active in.’”

According to the article, Cheney used that influence to bypass key presidential aides and thwart any dissent about Bush’s authorization of the unconstitutional military commissions to try detainees. The Post reports “almost no one” had seen the legal draft establishing the commissions, except Cheney’s closest aides. Cheney then took astonishing measures to ensure that internal objections would not reach the President, even resorting to spying on White House staff:

At the White House, [White House national security lawyer John] Bellinger sent Rice a blunt — and, he thought, private — legal warning. The Cheney-Rumsfeld position would place the president indisputably in breach of international law and would undermine cooperation from allied governments. …

One lawyer in his office said that Bellinger was chagrined to learn, indirectly, that Cheney had read the confidential memo and “was concerned” about his advice. Thus Bellinger discovered an unannounced standing order: Documents prepared for the national security adviser, another White House official said, were “routed outside the formal process” to Cheney, too. The reverse did not apply.

Powell asked for a meeting with Bush. The same day, Jan. 25, 2002, Cheney’s office struck a preemptive blow. It appeared to come from Gonzales, a longtime Bush confidant whom the president nicknamed “Fredo.” Hours after Powell made his request, Gonzales signed his name to a memo that anticipated and undermined the State Department’s talking points. The true author has long been a subject of speculation, for reasons including its unorthodox format and a subtly mocking tone that is not a Gonzales hallmark.

A White House lawyer with direct knowledge said Cheney’s lawyer, Addington, wrote the memo. Flanigan passed it to Gonzales, and Gonzales sent it as “my judgment” to Bush. If Bush consulted Cheney after that, the vice president became a sounding board for advice he originated himself.

Attorney General John Ashcroft “was astonished” to learn he had been pushed aside. “What the hell just happened?” Secretary of State Colin Powell asked upon learning through the media that the order had been signed. “National security adviser Condoleezza Rice, incensed, sent an aide to find out.”

The Post notes, “Stealth is among Cheney’s most effective tools.” The talking points for reporters drafted by Cheney’s office are “sometimes stamped ‘Treated As: Top Secret/SCI.’ Experts in and out of government said Cheney’s office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to ’sensitive compartmented information,’ the most closely guarded category of government secrets. By adding the words ‘treated as,’ they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause ‘exceptionally grave damage to national security.’”

UPDATE: Laura Rozen writes, “Cheney will go to his grave like others before him thinking he was a great patriot who should not be bound by the laws of this country, or the laws of war. But even with all that secret extra-legal power he yielded and bestowed for all these years, he couldn’t show success on any front when it mattered.”

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Former FISA judge criticizes domestic spying program.

Sat, 2007-06-23 14:10

Former chief judge of the FISA Court Royce Lamberth “took a swipe Saturday at the administration’s recently halted domestic spying program”:

Lamberth declined to say whether he believes the National Security Agency’s wiretap program was illegal.

But he said he has “never seen a better way” to conduct domestic spying than under the national security court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court secretly approves warrants for wiretaps and searches in counterterrorism and espionage investigations.

“I’ve seen a proposal for a worse way,” Lamberth said. “That’s what the president did with the NSA program.”

Cheney Bypassed Environmentally ‘Clueless’ Bush To Craft Administration’s Climate Change Agenda

Sat, 2007-06-23 12:08

In a comprehensive report this week, Rolling Stone magazine investigates the Bush administration’s “secret campaign to deny global warming.” The article documents the administration’s repeated attempts to use “cooked intelligence,” stay beholden to big industry interests, and stifle internal dissent on climate change.

The report highlights Dick Cheney’s surreptitious role in developing Bush’s pro-industry climate agenda, arguing Cheney took “full advantage of the president’s cluelessness” on climate change. Rolling Stone argues Bush played along with Cheney’s arm-twisting, which culminated most recently in his decision to bypass the G8 climate resolution. Some hey highlights from the article:

Cheney personally stalled Bush’s campaign pledge to regulate global warming:

In September 2000, Bush pledged to place caps on carbon emissions. In response, Cheney armed the White House Committee on Environmental Quality with industry heavyweights. Thereafter, “a CEQ memo concluded Bush’s promise to regulate CO2 ‘did not fully reflect the president’s position’ and that ‘it would be premature at this time to propose any specific policy or approach aimed at addressing global warming.’” The authors stated that “the current state of scientific knowledge about causes of and solutions to global warming is inconclusive.”

Cheney appointee dismissed administration’s own warnings of global warming:

A 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report detailed “far-reaching effects that global warming will inflict” and “for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming.” In response, a “horrified” Cheney appointee, Philip Cooney, wrote a letter to the New York Times “denying” that the paper marked any shift in Bush’s stance.

The letter written by Cooney and edited by Karl Rove - insisted that Bush’s climate change policy “reinforces” the “significant scientific uncertainties” present in climate change science. Soon after, Bush publicly dismissed the EPA report, saying it had been “put out by the bureaucracy.”

Cheney stovepiped disreputable climate change studies denying global warming:

“The most egregious example of cooked intelligence” occurred when Cooney promoted a study “which purported to show that the twentieth century was not unusually warm,” authored by a group funded by Exxon-Mobil. The paper was considered “fundamentally flawed and should never have been published,” according to the journal’s editors.

“The study gave Cheney’s office the quasi-plausible refutation of climate science it was waiting for…the administration continues to hold up the discredited study as a counterweight to the IPCC’s scientific, peer-reviewed findings on global warming.” Testifying before Congress in March 2007, White House science adviser Jim Connaughton hailed the study as a “new and major piece of science.”

Despite Cheney derailing Bush’s own campaign promises, the report makes clear that the president has done nothing to decrease the influence of an official who, as recently as February 2007, stated “there does not appear to be a consensus” that global warming is caused by man.

Gonzales To Give Speech Co-Sponsored By Prominent Creationism Organization

Sat, 2007-06-23 10:29

Next week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make his first-ever visit to Seattle as attorney general. While there, he will deliver a 45-minute speech “on the Justice Department’s efforts to protect intellectual property and combat cybercrime.”

The speech, which is free and open to the public, was organized by TechNet Northwest. It is also being sponsored and promoted by the most prominent creationism advocacy organization in the country: the Discovery Institute.

One of the Institute’s main goals is to replace evolutionary science in public schools with “intelligent design”:

The Discovery Institute has quietly positioned itself as the most effective and politically savvy group pushing a religious agenda in America’s public school science classes. […]

The Institute enthusiastically endorses what law professor and ID champion Philip Johnson calls the “wedge” strategy. The plan is straightforward: use intelligent design as a wedge to undermine evolution with scientific-sounding arguments and thereby advance a conservative religious-political agenda.

The institute’s main financial backer, savings and loan heir Howard Ahmanson, spent 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Foundation, “a theocratic outfit that advocates the replacement of American civil law with biblical law.”

Discovery’s attacks on evolution have been discredited by leading scientists. The National Academy of Sciences, “the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization,” declares evolution “one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have.” President Bush’s science adviser John Marburger calls it “the cornerstone of modern biology.”

While it’s unclear what interest the Institue has in promoting a Gonzales speech on intellectual property rights and cybercrime, there’s no doubt that they would like to curry his favor in order to get “the Justice Department to support legal efforts to change” public school curriculum to include “intelligent design.”

Bush claims he’s not part of the executive branch.

Sat, 2007-06-23 08:08

Vice President Cheney has exempted his office from a presidential executive order designed to safeguard classified national security information by claiming that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch.” Today the LA Times reveals that the President has also exempted himself:

The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, President Bush’s office is not allowing an independent federal watchdog to oversee its handling of classified national security information.

An executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 — amending an existing order — requires all government agencies that are part of the executive branch to submit to oversight. Although it doesn’t specifically say so, Bush’s order was not meant to apply to the vice president’s office or the president’s office, a White House spokesman said.

Olbermann Fact-Checks White House, Finds No Special Exemption For Cheney

Sat, 2007-06-23 05:00

Yesterday, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended Dick Cheney’s claim of existing outside the Executive Order (EO) that governs the preservation of classified data, a directive which applies to all Executive Branch officials.

Dismissing the topic as “a little bit of a nonissue,” Perino said President Bush “gets to decide whether or not [Cheney] should be treated separately, and he’s decided that he should.” She then suggested there was textual evidence in the 2003 Executive Order to support the claim that it was not applicable to Cheney:

PERINO: If you look on page 18 of the EO, when you have a chance, there’s a distinction regarding the Vice President versus what is an agency. And the President also, as the author of an EO, and the person responsible for interpreting the EO, did not intend for the Vice President to be treated as an agency, and that’s clear.

Last night, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reported that his staff fact-checked Perino’s claim, looked at page 18 of the order, and found Perino’s claim to be false:

OLBERMANN: No exemption at all for the Vice President on page 18. So we emailed the White House, which referred us to section 1.3 — which is about something else altogether — and 5.2 — which makes no mention of the Vice President. In fact, there is no exemption for the President or the Vice President when it comes to reporting on classified material.

Watch it:

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Sec. 6.1(b) of Bush’s 2003 executive order governing classified material explicitly states that it applies to any “‘Executive agency…any ‘Military department’…and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.” Olbermann concluded that Cheney’s defiance must lead to the following conclusion: “He’s no longer an entity of any kind.”

Lurita Doan update.

Fri, 2007-06-22 21:01

Nearly two weeks after the Office of Special Counsel recommended the firing of General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan for “serious violations of the Hatch Act,” the White House says it is still reviewing the report:

A White House spokeswoman said today that the Office of Special Counsel report finding General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan guilty of violating the Hatch Act is still being reviewed. … The spokeswoman also noted that there is no deadline for the White House to meet in completing its review of the OSC findings that Doan violated the law that limits political activity in federal agencies.

More on Lurita Doan here and here.

Germans report increased terror threat.

Fri, 2007-06-22 19:10

“Germany faces a heightened threat of terrorist attacks because of its military involvement in Afghanistan, government security officials here said Friday,” the New York Times reports. “The danger level, they warned, was comparable to the months before the 9/11 attacks in the United States.”