.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Scandal's perfect storm

The NYtimes regarding the Abramoff investigation:

Scholars who specialize in the history and operations of Congress say that given the brazenness of Mr. Abramoff's lobbying efforts, as measured by the huge fees he charged clients and the extravagant gifts he showered on friends on Capitol Hill, almost all of them Republicans, the investigation could end up costing several lawmakers their careers, if not their freedom.

The investigation threatens to ensnarl many outside Congress as well, including Interior Department officials and others in the Bush administration who were courted by Mr. Abramoff on behalf of the Indian tribe casinos that were his most lucrative clients.

With Plame, Iraq war intel follies, Franklin/AIPAC, Delay's indictment, Frist's investigation, Cheney(subtopics: torture, renditions, guantanamo, Halliburton,) and the rest, we are witnessing scandal's perfect storm. The amazing thing to me is that all of these investigations are looking into criminal behavior committed in the last four years.

So, I guess the Republicans weren't lying, to them, 9-11 really did change everything.

Picture of the day

Bull market bull

How log do you think it'll be until someone spins this as proof of success of the Bush economic policies?

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - U.S. stocks ended higher Friday, with the S&P 500 Index reaching a 4 1/2 year high in a week of gains fueled by a rally in the technology sector, a drop in crude-oil prices and a decline in long-term interest rates.

The reality is that it has taken four and half years for the stock markets to get back just to where they were.

Friday, November 18, 2005

What are "Harsh Interrogation Tactics?"

Interesting article on ABCnews listing six of the "Enhanced Interrogation Tactics." This is what the CIA wants out in the press. Judge for yourself.

The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.

Oh, and as for intel obtained by torture being unreliable, this article gave an example that jumped right out of the page.

According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

Some of the bad intel that took us to war was obtained by torture. Do you see the problem with torture now?

Also, this is also the same intel that Sen. Carl Levin made available through a declassified report that DIA believed was supplied by a likely fabricator. A report that would have been sent to the President's office, the VP's office, the State Dept, the NSC, the WHIG, and many, many other places where it was ignored.

Interesting that this is one of the examples the CIA sourced.

Other stuff:

There have been several dozen instances of rendition. There have been a little over a dozen authorized enhanced interrogations. As a result, the enhanced interrogation program has been described as one encompassing 100 or more prisoners. Multiple CIA sources told ABC that it is not. The renditions have also been described as illegal. They are not, our sources said, although they acknowledge the procedures are in an ethical gray area and are at times used for the convenience of extracting information under harsher conditions that the U.S. would allow.

Just read the whole thing. But remember, this is what the CIA wants out in the press for their own reasons. Certainly to portray themselves in a positive light, but also to cover their asses if this secret prison/torture thing blows up in their faces. It's not a fluke that they "informed" a reporter after the secret prisons story and the McCain anti-torture amendment passed 90-9.

Abramoff scandal about to be blown wide open?

Reddhead at Firedoglake thinks so. Jesselee, too. (Both down near bottom)

I'm not an expert in grand jury proceedings, but their claim is that the prosecutor filed an information rather than an indictment against Abramoff partner Scanlon, and that this indicates cooperation and a plea deal. Firedoglake has been excellent throughout Plame so I'm prone to believe this.

If Abramoff's partner starts to point fingers, people all over Washington, primarily Repubs, but also a few Dems, will be running for the exits. This could be the perfect storm.

More: From the AP version of the story.

Michael Scanlon, an ex-aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, is headed to federal court Monday on a single count contained in a criminal information, which typically is a prelude to a guilty plea and cooperation with government investigators.

Plame - Here we go again

It's not over.

The federal prosecutor investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity says he plans to present information to a new grand jury, a sign that he is considering additional charges in his two-year-old probe.

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in court filings that his investigation "will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

I'm getting that feeling again.

Also, could his sudden relaxation against the Dow Jones suit to make all the info public mean that he now expects to wrap up soon, before the Libby trial even gets going?

Supply and Demand

The military is falling far behind in its effort to recruit and re-enlist soldiers for some of the most vital combat positions in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new government report.....

Both the Army and the Marines, for instance, fell short of their goals for hiring roadside bomb defusers by about 20 percent in each of the last two years.

Has the demand gone up? Or has the supply gone down?

Quote of the day - Chet Edwards(D - Tx)

In relation to the "bailing with a thimble" effort of Republicans in the house to cut $5 billion off the $319 billion dollar debt accrued this year by cutting medicaid, food stamps, and student loans.

"Name just one religion in the world that preaches the value of asking the most of those who have the least and asking nothing of those who have the most," said Chet Edwards, D-Texas. "Sadly, that is what this budget does."

Plame Gossip - Woodward's source

Think progress has a weird episode at a press conference that puts Hadley back on the table as Woodward's source. Laura Rozen is tentatively pushing the idea that it might be Armitage. Jeralyn is circling around Hannah, Wurmser, and Fleitz. The Left Coaster mentions the names Ari Fleischer and Rumsfeld, and Cambone and Wolfowitz.

My gut tells me that is not Cheney. Working under my supposition that Fitzgerald has made Cheney his ultimate target, I don't see a scenario where Cheney comes forward with this.

With the bizarre Hadley press conference, I have to move Hadley back to the shortest odds position where I had him previously, but I am beginning to wonder about a possible candidate outside the White House.

Woodward was working on a book about the Iraq war, and with his predilection to only talk to the very top officials, this could lead to indications of somebody at or associated with DoD. Another name I have never seen mentioned in all this, who was travelling in the neocon circles, and was very involved in pushing the case for war, is Richard Perle. But that may just be wishful thinking.

So, no answers at this point, but the most logical choices to me are the Hadley, Hannah, Wurmser trio. More as it comes.

Also related: This week's John Dean column implores Pat Fitzgerald to broaden his investigation into Plame citing Watergate and Teapot Dome as precedent.

Picture of the day

Anti-APEC protesters in South Korea.

Feith will be investigated by Pentagon's IG

Not too optimistic about this; I would think that an investigator outside the Pentagon might offer a better chance at uncovering the truth, but at least someone (beyond stonewalling Pat Roberts) is looking into it.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's inspector general has agreed to review the prewar intelligence activities of former U.S. defense undersecretary Douglas Feith, a main architect of the Iraq war, congressional officials said on Thursday. ....

Democrats have accused Feith of manipulating information from sources including discredited Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi to suggest links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Bush and other top administration officials cited alleged ties between Iraq and al Qaeda as a justification for military action. But the September 11 commission later reported that no collaborative relationship existed between the two. ......

Congressional officials expect the review to look at whether Feith and his staff bypassed the CIA by giving the White House uncorroborated intelligence that sought to make a case for war in the months leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Feith, who was the Pentagon's policy chief until he left the Defense Department for the private sector earlier this year, was not immediately available for comment.

Officials said the Pentagon's inspector general told the Senate its review would begin sometime in November. One official estimated the probe could take at least six months.

Are you telling me that this investigation could be done before the 2006 election? I'll believe it when I see it.

Also, no matter how big Plame is, I always thought that the actions of some in the DoD were far worse. The OSP, for instance, is one of the groups responsible for supplying intel to the White House around the normal analysis process, "stovepiping" it was called. Whether you believe Bush and Cheney lied, or were just wrong, a good portion of the bad intel they used to promote their position came from Feith and the OSP.

Sweden investigating "renditions"

In this previous post, I had mentioned that Sweden had been looking into US "renditions", as well as Spain, Germany, and Italy. Here is the support for that claim. (BBC)

Iceland and Sweden are investigating allegations that planes flown by the CIA used their airports during secret transfers of terror suspects.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Have you no shame? Have you no decency left?

Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) today, came forward and called for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Just for background on Rep. Murtha.

After serving in the Marines in the early 1950's, he re-enlisted in 1966, at the age of 34, and served in Vietnam, earning a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry, according to The Almanac of American Politics. When he won his House seat in a special election in February 1974 he became the first Vietnam veteran to serve in Congress.

So, after years and years of tirelessly supporting the armed forces in Congress, Rep. Murtha cannot be painted as a lightweight. So, of course, in true Bush White House form, a hero, a man who reenlisted for Vietnam can be referred to like this.


Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled -- nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer.

That's the whole statement.

At long last, have you no shame? Have you no decency left?


Stansfield Turner takes a shot at Cheney

I don't know how tuned in Stansfield Turner is at this point, but this is quite a statement.

A former CIA director has exclusively told ITV News that torture is condoned and even approved by the Bush government.

The devastating accusations have been made by Admiral Stansfield Turner who labelled Dick Cheney "a vice president for torture".

He said: "We have crossed the line into dangerous territory".

I'm still waiting for the "You can't handle the truth" defense of torture. They've danced around it with the "these are really bad people" language, but they have yet to go all out with the "the world is so ugly, you don't want to know what we do. Trust us."

Plame Gossip

Interesting speculation from the WSJ(this is not WSJ sourced because their stories require paid subscription. From ABCnews, the note.)

While the Woodward disclosure may muddy the Libby prosecution, the Wall Street Journal's Squeo and McKinnon report that the White House must now "brace itself" for the possibility that Fitzgerald's probe, "far from winding down, may have just gotten a second wind."

Prosecutors deposed Woodward in anticipation of presenting that evidence to a new grand jury, according to a person familiar with the situation. And that is exclusive new news, courtesy of Dow Jones.

The Journal also floats the possibility that the Woodward and Novak source is the same person.

Okay, just a speculative question. If this is true that Fitzgerald is preparing to present info to a new grand jury, wouldn't you say that that means he is going to look for further indictments? As a prosecutor would you go through all the trouble of resubmitting all the evidence to a new grand jury if you weren't intending to indict somebody? I sure wouldn't.

UPDATE: Big news, of a sort. A White House official said that Hadley is not Woodward's source either. That narrows it down again. Maybe Cheney is back in play, I don't know. The list of possibles, with the big assumption that all the denials are true, is quickly narrowing. Cheney, Karen Hughes, Condi Rice, Fleitz? The candidate who is known to have had Plame's name early is Cheney, but do you send him out to do the hatchett job last night if that's the case? I don't know, for some reason, I just don't believe it's Cheney even though the known facts fit, and his office is the only one offering the "ongoing investigation" answer to the question.

Now, that would be a bombshell.

From Larry King Oct. 27.

"ISIKOFF: I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.

"KING: Come clean.

"WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best 'New York Times' reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell. . . .

"Finally, this went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the 'Washington Post' called me and said, 'I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it.' (LIAR)

UPDATE: Now a person familiar with the investigation has said that it isn't Cheney. So, our list is getting smaller. I'll try to put up a new candidate list today(Fri).

Undercover with The Promise Keepers

Sini found a great article on the Promise Keepers. It's from SFweekly, and apparently this guy goes undercover into different circumstances and writes about them.

It's really funny, take a look.

Knight-Ridder calls Bush-Cheney liars - And Documents It!

If you're up on the current state of play in the Cheney-Bush defense of the Iraq intel, this article doesn't have any surprises. BUT, take a quick look anyhow. The way this is structured is about the most blatant accusation of administration lying I've seen from any major press outlet.

(Also, I'll say it again. Knight-Ridder is cool. They, and the Christian Science Monitor, were the only two "mainstream" press outlets that actually examined the case for war, WMD, and Al Qaeda connections when the "debate" was actually going on.)

Maybe there's a disclaim torture playbook.

The first quotes are from Iraqi government denials about the recent finding of 170 malnourished and tortured Sunnis. The second, well......

"These are the most criminal terrorists who were in these cells," Jabr said.

Cheney on This Week from Whitehouse.gov website. (2002) These are bad people. I mean, they've already been screened before they get to Guantanamo. They may will have information about future terrorist attacks against the United States. We need that information, we need to be able to interrogate them and extract from them whatever information they have.

He said that an investigation was underway into the torture allegations,

At a press briefing from whitehouse.gov website (2004) MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, John, there is an investigation underway. We do know that there were a few individuals involved in some appalling and despicable acts in the way prisoners were treated. And it's important that people be held accountable.

"I reject torture and I will punish those who perform torture,"

Presidential Press conference(2004) Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country. We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari promised a full investigation and punishment for anyone guilty of torture.

President's statement(2004) I have directed a full accounting for the abuse of the Abu Ghraib detainees, and investigations are underway to review detention operations in Iraq and elsewhere.

There must be a playbook. I did this in about ten minutes, so I'll bet you could find more accurate matches if you took a little time. The only thing missing is the "few bad apples" line, but if you'll remember, that didn't come into the American spin until months into the denials.

America supports Roe - Congressman Davis

Somebody on the Republican side finally stated publicly the political downside of giving the religious right what they want.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, said the desire of GOP conservatives to see a newly constituted Supreme Court eventually overturn Roe v. Wade could produce a political backlash, particularly in the suburbs. "It would be a sea change in suburban voting patterns," Davis said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Over the years, polls have shown that America largely supports Roe v. Wade. This is why smart Republicans (Reagan, Bush I) payed lip service to the religious right and then nominated Supreme Court candidates who would support Roe.

This is the basic flaw of the Rove theory of divisive politics. By relying so heavily upon the religious "base," Rove has created a situation where he might lose the center. In order to not lose the center, Rove will have to maintain the big lie with the base. (The big lie is that the Republicans put the "religious right" faction of their party above the "big business" faction of their party.) It has worked thus far because big business is willing to ignore public comments an focus instead on policy, legislation, and the maintenance of power.

What happens when the religious folks decide they need action not words, and the big business folks see those actions as a threat to the end of their gravy train? Schism.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

You don't introduce a new product in August

"You don't introduce a new product in August." Those famous words were uttered by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card in August 2002 as a means of explaining why the administration would wait until after labor day to make their case for a war with Iraq.

The graphic is from a new report titled Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq. This report was requested by Henry Waxman from the Committee on Government Reform.

This graphic shows me that Mr. Card was, indeed, telling the truth for once. The Bush administration didn't really start lying in earnest until Spetember of that year.

Plame Gossip - A few more thoughts on Woodward

Was the "Woodward leak" the eleventh hour "new information" mentioned in the Washington Post story?

Rove provided new information to Fitzgerald during eleventh-hour negotiations that "gave Fitzgerald pause" about charging Bush's senior strategist, said a source close to Rove. "The prosecutor has to resolve those issues before he decides what to do."

(I can't date it specifically, because the link no longer works, but it would've been around 10/27 or 10/28)

Also, I don't think the MSNBC(Hardball) allegation that Cheney was Woodward's source holds any water. The sudden release of Woodward from confidentiality served one of two nonexclusive purposes:

1) Woodward was released because the source believed that Fitzgerald was due to find out about the conversation anyhow. This would imply that the source had been covering up out of a fear of prosecution or at least the appearance of guilt.

2) Woodward was released because it was thought that the story Woodward is telling would help Libby. (or maybe Rove?) Quite frankly, I don't see how this helps Libby legally, but it may significantly help his side politically. Those that have been braying about "no underlying crime" can now further impugn Fitzgerald, reinforcing that argument.

Obviously, by the nature of the waiver, Woodward can release the story which is helpful to the anti-Fitzgeraldites, but not the source, which wouldn't be helpful in the overall PR war, this has political considerations all over it.

As for helping Rove, what if those eleventh hour negotiations with Rove were an effort to get him to cooperate? Fitzgerald thinks he has a solid case against Rove and Libby for the underlying crime, is attempting to negotiate plea deals to go after Cheney, when suddenly Rove's lawyer pulls out some bit of evidence which indicates that Rove/Libby were not the first ones to go to the press with the Plame info. Suddenly, Fitzgerald is forced to greatly reduce the scope of the indictments, and, having Libby dead to rights on perjury, decides to indict on that before the grand jury expires. In this scenario, Fitzgerald believes that Rove and Libby committed the "underlying crime," and simply deferred indicting on those charges until it was all fleshed out. Pure speculation, but it fits the facts.

As to who is Bob Woodward's source, I think that my candidate would be Hadley. If Fitzgerald is stalking Cheney, a supposition on my part, Hadley would be far enough down the chain to be worth "dealing." Hadley was on the WHIG, there's evidence he knew of Plame's name early on, and he received an email from Rove which discussed the Rove/Matt Cooper conversation in a manner which implied that they had discussed Plame, and perhaps the media, at some length. I wouldn't say it's a lock, but that's where I think the shortest odds are.

Cheney was Woodward's source? - MSNBC

Hardball(MSNBC) just speculated that Cheney was Woodward's source. They give no real backing for this, just that Woodward was working on his book at the time and in regular contact with Cheney. They didn't mention any other possibile sources!

Seems pretty irresponsible, if they don't have more than Cheney and Woodward were talking alot. It was in a packaged piece, so they can't claim a "misstatement."

Hardball - first five minutes(it's replayed around 1AM eastern.)

More pictures - Topic: Parents

Plame Gossip - Woodward carrying water?

I'm having a little trouble interpreting this, but Bob Woodward testified before Fitzgerald in a two hour deposition on Monday. Fitzgerald became aware of the conversation between Woodward and an unnamed "official" on Nov. 3, ONE WEEK AFTER the Libby indictment. Obviously, somebody made a deal to work with Fitzgerald. Woodward says the official was not Libby, and Rove's lawyers denied it was him.

The "conversation" with took place on June 27, right in the middle of the eight conversations Libby had regarding Plame.(source firedoglake) Woodward, conveniently can't remember if he mentioned Plame in that conversation. (convenient for Libby)

This statement by Woodward would mean that Libby was not the first to leak Plame's name to the press, and that Woodward was the first reporter to which the name was revealed. The Libby defense is already claiming that this means their boy is innocent. Not so fast, Mr. Lawyerman. Your boy, Libby, is still dead to rights on the perjury charges.

As to the "official" that discussed Plame with Woodward, nothing but speculation at this point. Top candidates in the early running appear to be Fred Fleitz, a former "go to guy for Bolton," who had contacts with Judy Miller, Bolton himself, who has been one of my suspects in this thing, or David Wurmser, who according to the unreliable Rawstory started "cooperating" with Fitzgerald sometime back.

I don't have an answer at this point, not even a working theory, really, but the bottom line is that the investigation is still ongoing, and Fitzgerald has the cooperation of at least one lower down in the whitehouse. New information is coming out, and despite the efforts of Rove and Libby's lawyers to spin this as good news, it's not.

UPDATE: Rawstory(again, maybe credible?) is reporting that Hadley was Woodward's source. Interesting in that it would take the investigation back into the Whitehouse from the Veep's office, and also back into the WHIG, but I'm not too sure about this over all. But, if Hadley was the first leaker, then we're gonna have to find out where he got the information, and we're gonna have to get into all the WHIG details. (WHIG - WhiteHouse Iraq Group)

By the way, Hadley was the one who publicly apologized for the "16 words" in the State of the Union speech regarding Uranium from Niger.

Picture of the day.

Leg irons and handcuffs hang on a board at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Naval Base, in Guantanamo, Cuba. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused UN experts access to detainees at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, dismissing a hunger strike there as a publicity stunt.(AFP/Pool/File/Mark Wilson)

(I'm gonna start putting up a photo a day, first thing each morning. Often, they say it better than I can.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Iraqi Civil War

This article came out today and could have a greater impact on the future of that country than just about any other story out of Iraq.

Iraq's prime minister said Tuesday that 173 Iraqi detainees — malnourished and showing signs of torture — were found at an Interior Ministry basement lockup seized by U.S. forces in Baghdad. The discovery appeared to validate Sunni complaints of abuse by the Shiite-controlled ministry.

Can we really expect the Sunnis to forgive and forget? This situation validates the belief by the Sunnis that they can expect no fair shake from the interior ministry(security forces.) What is left to them except open violence?

More on White Phosphorus

From the left leaning Independent(I include their politics as reference, not to challenge their story)

While military experts have supported some of these criticisms, an examination by The Independent of the available evidence suggests the following: that WP shells were fired at insurgents, that reports from the battleground suggest troops firing these WP shells did not always know who they were hitting and that there remain widespread reports of civilians suffering extensive burn injuries. While US commanders insist they always strive to avoid civilian casualties, the story of the battle of Fallujah highlights the intrinsic difficulty of such an endeavour.

It is also clear that elements within the US government have been putting out incorrect information about the battle of Fallujah, making it harder to assesses the truth. Some within the US government have previously issued disingenuous statements about the use in Iraq of another controversial incendiary weapon - napalm.

UPDATE: The Pentagon has admitted WP use as a ground weapon against people, after their denials had been proved wrong by one of their own publications. Robert Burns of the AP

WASHINGTON -- Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops used white phosphorous as a weapon against insurgent strongholds during the battle of Fallujah last November. But they denied an Italian television news report that the spontaneously flammable material was used against civilians.

Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while white phosphorous is most frequently used to mark targets or obscure a position, it was used at times in Fallujah as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," Venable said.

'Cause after all, that would be a war crime.

More on Chinese spies.

In this post, I noted the three different espionage cases that have been revealed indicating a massive, successful effort by Chinese to steal huge amounts of bleeding edge military technology. Aegis Class warships, B-2 stealth technology, Nuclear Sub and missile technology.

Add these to the list. Bill Gertz (Wash Times)

Mr. Chi, an electrical engineer, also had access to details on U.S. aircraft carriers and once was aboard the USS Stennis. A Pentagon report made public earlier this year said China's military is building up capabilities to attack U.S. aircraft carriers.

China also is thought to have obtained information from the spy ring that will assist Chinese military development of electromagnetic pulse weapons -- weapons that simulate the electronic shock caused by a nuclear blast -- that disrupt electronics.

It also is thought to have obtained unmanned aerial vehicle technology from the spy ring.

And AP:

Though it's not alleged in the indictment, prosecutors previously said authorities recovered restricted documents on the DDX Destroyer - known as the "destroyer of the future"

I mean, jesus christ. What surprises are they going to have in store for us if we try to place our navy and air force between them and Taiwan?

Update: I hadn't yet made the connection that all of these arrests are coming in the week before Bush headed to China.

Bush's gone crazy - part II

So the Drudge leak(below) was accurate. Read it first to get a background. Insight magazine has the story up now, and the parts in the last post, although juicy, are not nearly as interesting as this. (It's short, read the whole thing)

For the president, what triggered the break with his father was the interview given to the New Yorker magazine in October by Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor in the first Bush presidency. In the interview, Mr. Scowcroft criticized the administration's handling of Iraq. The sources said the president is convinced that Mr. Scowcroft consulted with Mr. Bush's father prior to delivering the devastating critique of the president's Iraq policy.

The interview sparked a series of high-level criticism that Mr. Bush believes was coordinated by circles close to his father. Mr. Scowcroft and Mr. Bush's father have been regarded as being best friends.

There's more there about Rove, Libby, and the general state of things, but this really grabs me. Those who have read me for the last few months know of my theory that Colin Powell is out to get Dick Cheney, but maybe this is just part of the greater intrigue.

Maybe we're witnessing the conflict of dynastic politics. After all, certainly George Jr's presidency has seriously handicapped any presidential aspirations the family had for Jeb. Jeb was always considered the more likely(and more capable) probability for another Bush in the White House. And it has always seemed that George Sr. preferred him.

(one mitigating note. This story appears to be mainly from one source, so take into account accuracy, motivations, etc. Also, look for a Bush/Bush photo op when Bush Jr. gets back from running from his domestic problems. If it doesn't happen, this is a really big deal.)

Bush's gone crazy.

Exaggeration? Maybe, but these don't sound like the acts of a rational leader. (from Drudge, so grains of salt)

Bush rarely speaks to father, ‘family is split’
Tue Nov 15 2005 11:23:51 ET

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, INSIGHT magazine claims in a new report.

The president’s reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

“The atmosphere in the Oval Office has become unbearable,” a source said. “Even the family is split.”

INSIGHT: Sources close to the White House say that Mr. Bush has become isolated and feels betrayed by key officials in the wake of plunging domestic support, the continued insurgency in Iraq and the CIA-leak investigation that has resulted in the indictment and resignation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

Sounds to me like fairly classic paranoia. Notice that all the people he "maintains daily contact with" are women. Might explain the Miers nomination, no?

How can you run a government like this? I'm skeptical, but the change to attack the dems regarding prewar intel does sound like previous Karen Hughes works.

(Drudge had this up last night as a link to the original Insight mag piece, but the site kept reporting down and timing out. So, I cannot verify this interpretation or back the claims.)

Plame gossip

I don't have time to really write about this right now, but there has been alot of really good Plame analysis in the last day or so.

The first is a really lengthy piece by Jeralyn at TalkLeft who runs through some details in the three major Plame pieces this week and postulates that the last minute meeting Fitzgerald had with Rove was Rove rolling over.

The second is from firedoglake who runs through the strength of the perjury case against Libby with eight specific examples of Libby discussing Plame's name before he claims to have heard it from Tim Russert.(who denies telling Libby)

Last we'll go back to Talk Left for an interesting discussion about an agreement between Fitzgerald and Libby to keep all the discovery private. This is big for a couple of reasons she outlines.

And, I'm gonna say it again, the more I look at this, the more convinced I am that Fitzgerald is going after Dick Cheney. If Rove is supplying evidence, even against Libby, it all works up the pyramid to Cheney. As the second article listed above indicates, there would be very little need for any information from Rove to convict Libby. His goose is already cooked, so, if Rove has struck a deal with Fitzgerald, the two possibilities are: 1. Evidence directly against Libby of a greater crime or other crimes for which he is not currently under indictment. 2. Evidence against Cheney.

On Olberman last night, John Dean, who maintains that Cheney is the target, was discussing Plame et al. Discussing the indictment, he said,

it has detail that typically you wouldn‘t find in a federal indictment.

In particular, it raises a statute that has nothing to do with the case against Libby, and that is the federal espionage statute, which he gets into in some detail, as well as the executive order that goes with it, that shows the standard of conduct.....

That‘s why I say I think Libby is the firewall. During the press conference, he said that it was the fact that Mr. Libby lied that made it impossible for him to make a judgment as to who might be guilty of what, as far as the substantive leaking crime was involved.So clearly, this has blocked his ability to get to those facts, and that‘s why he brought the indictment against Libby. But I don‘t think it‘s over.

Gotta Go.

Quote of the day from Americablog

In response to Bush's speech which all but accused the Democrats of "aiding and abetting the enemy" by questioning prewar intel:

Made me laugh

Contrary Iraq intel was often classified

Just thought I'd put in a link to this post from Kevin Drum which shows five instances where the administration classified intelligence that ran counter to the intel they supplied Congress.

Also, today's NYTimes lead editorial critiques Bush's latest arguments as well.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Who cares about nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists?

There have been a number of complaints over the lack of funding the Bush administration's budgets have provided for Nunn-Lugar, the legislation which funds the decommision and destruction of Russian nuclear weapons rather than leaving them lightly guarded and neglected spread throughout Russia. And it is relatively cheap, too.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government is not doing enough to protect nuclear weapons from terrorists and its handling of terrorism suspects is undermining America's image in the Muslim world, members of a commission that investigated the September 11 attacks said on Monday......

"In short, we still do not have a maximum effort against the most urgent threat ... to the American people," he told a news conference, noting that half the nuclear materials in Russia still have no security upgrade.

Fully fund Nunn-Lugar, the most sensible piece of bipartisan legislation that ever passed through Congress. Because if a nuclear bomb goes off, I don't think party affiliation is gonna matter all that much. Interestingly, now that Nunn is gone, it's newer cousin is Nunn-Obama.

***** While I was looking for info on Nunn-Lugar, I came across an old Frontline episode created just after the Soviet Union fell on the topic of Loose Nukes. Two interesting items from that site.

1) Frontline's background interviews on Nunn-Lugar if you're looking for more info.

2) A really interesting training video of the US equivalent of the Russian "suitcase nuke." (bottom) The video isn't great, but it gives you a real idea of the size of these things. (The US 1960's 1 kiloton version looks like it would fit in a child's car seat or baby carriage.)

China spying and the coming war over Taiwan

This is the third public exposure in two weeks of an individual who was supplying weapons information to China.

On Oct. 28, Noshir Gowadia was arrested for selling the B-2 infrared suppressing propulsion system. It was not stated to which country the actual sale took place, but it is alleged that he had marketed this information to a number of governments.

On Nov. 7, a 15 year Chinese spy ring was broken up which had stolen, among other things, information which would allow tracking the new Virginia class submarine, as well as near complete technological ripoff of the entire Aegis destroyer technologies.

Today, the BBC is reporting: Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has arrested the head of a Russian rocket technology firm on charges of selling state secrets to China.

Interesting that all of this has come out so quickly and so close together. It leads me to believe that the US either has a mole way up in China's intelligence apparatus or that there has recently been a very high placed defector.

Regardless, these announced security leaks represent an extremely serious set of compromises in the US's most expensive and most secret technologies. All of these technologies, sub tracking, destroyer countermeasures, information on the B-2's infrared trail, and missile technology would play a critical role if the US attempted to intervene against a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

This may be hugely significant.

Spain looks into "renditions"

The program is the focus of a number of European investigations. Spain is the third country in Europe to open a judicial inquiry into potential criminal offenses committed by C.I.A. operatives related to renditions. The other two are Germany and Italy, which on Friday formally requested the extradition of 22 people said to be C.I.A. operatives linked to the suspected kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in 2003.

Last week, related investigations were started by the European Union and the Council of Europe to look into reports of secret C.I.A. jails for terrorism suspects in Eastern Europe.

An inquiry seems likely by the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak. Last week he said that if reports of the C.I.A.'s activities proved correct, then the agency was engaged in a "systematic practice of enforced disappearance."

I have also read of an early stage investigation in Sweden, although I do not know it's current status.

White House weakness?

This is not the sign of a strong White House. The Whitehouse issues a "setting the record straight" press release on Saturday's WaPo page A01 criticism of Bush's arguments about WMD. It is interesting to me that they feel the need to "push back" against a single article.

Bush polling for Bill

A friend of mine last night asked me what the latest Bush polling numbers were. Here's your update, Bill. From Polling Report, Bush approval/disapproval numbers(always a good site for just generic raw data from all the polls.) And be sure to take a buzz down to the bullet points on this USA today article. I don't always believe polls,(trends, yes) but there's some interesting curiousities there.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Remember Katrina?

Remember Katrina? When faced with the obvious exposure of rampant poverty among the black community in New Orleans(and elsewhere) every politician from Bush on down, swore a commitment to take up the issue as a matter of national importance.

Anything happened yet? Legislation? New programs? Administrative orders? Changes to anything?

Well, there has been an effort underway in both the House and Senate by the Republican majority to cut food stamps and other social welfare programs. But, thankfully, that legislation looks like it will fail.

What got me thinking today, was this:

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - The explosion of urban violence in France has raised fears that Los Angeles, rocked by riots in 1992, could again fall prey to unrest as still-festering problems spawn the "quiet riots" of gang warfare.

Amazing. The concern has turned from "How could this happen here?" to "what do we need to do to keep the poor blacks from rioting?"

After all, Katrina happened a whole two months ago.


On Jordan/US Intel Cooperation

I avoided talking about this for a bit because of the obvious link with the terror bombings, but the LATimes had a very interesting piece on Friday about the close US/Jordanian intel efforts. I feel enough time has passed to look at the potential whys. Just information, no conclusions.

Jordan's General Intelligence Directorate, or GID, has surpassed Israel's Mossad as America's most effective allied counter-terrorism agency in the Middle East. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, its cooperation with the CIA has grown even closer.....

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey called Jordan "a natural target for Al Qaeda" and Iraqi insurgents. "It's a little surprising there haven't been more attacks" against Jordan, he said. ....

Most recently, Jordan has emerged as a hub for "extraordinary renditions," the controversial, covert transfer of suspected extremists from U.S. custody to foreign intelligence agencies. ....

But in two previously undisclosed cases, citizens of Yemen say they were detained in Pakistan and Afghanistan, then transported to Jordan and held by the GID, their lawyers said. One of the detainees said he was tortured by the Jordanian service and then handed back to American authorities.

The State Department praised Jordan for combating terrorism in one report this year and accused it of human rights abuses in another. .....

According to a State Department report released this year, Jordanian security agents "sometimes abuse detainees physically and verbally during detention and interrogation, and allegedly also use torture."

It said Jordan's reported torture methods include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions and extended solitary confinement. ...

Scheuer emphasized that renditions require approval by senior White House officials and are vetted by government attorneys.

Question of the day

From a press conference with State Dept. spokesman Adam Ereli. (Sorry, no direct link.)

QUESTION: How does holding people in secret, though, keep America any more safe? You've got people in Guantanamo Bay that are being held because you believe it makes America more safe. Why not hold people out in the open and let the investigation -- sorry, let visitations take place by the ICRC? Why does holding --

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that (inaudible).


QUESTION: I just have to try one more, just following up on Cam. If the U.S. holds -- has these values and they're enduring values, why does it matter what kind of people you're dealing with, because the U.S. values would stand regardless of who they are?

MR. ERELI: Exactly. Good. I agree.

QUESTION: Okay. So why do you feel it necessary to keep saying that these are "really bad" people, we have these values but these are "really bad" people? The U.S. values stand no matter who you're dealing with.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: So why are some people in secret prisons and some people not? I'm serious. That was the question. Why are you holding some "really bad" people in secret prisons?

MR. ERELI: I didn't -- that -- the issue that you raised and that you raised and that you're all interested in, that you've been raising for like four
days or five days, I'm not going to speak to. I'm going to speak to --

There's alot more of this line of questioning. If you're a nerd for this, like me, look here.