Friday, August 12, 2005

Novak outburst

If you haven't seen Novak's CNN outburst from last week, here's the link

The informer

From Solan:

The informer
For nearly 50 years, Robert Novak badgered and bullied his way to the top of Washington. His disgrace in the Valerie Plame affair has brought him crashing down -- and he has only himself to blame.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Aug. 11, 2005 The tension of possibly being asked an impertinent question about Valerie Plame was unbearable for Robert Novak. Before it could be posed on CNN's Aug. 4 "Inside Politics," Novak growled a vulgarism, threw off his microphone, and stalked off the set. Within an hour, a CNN spokesperson announced that the Washington columnist, who had been one of CNN's original marquee attractions, had engaged in "inexcusable and unacceptable" behavior and was suspended: "We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off."

After his 49 years in Washington, rising to become a virtual institution unto himself, was this hasty exit the end for Bob Novak? He had operated for decades according to the rules and folkways of Washington as he understood them. He had worked and badgered and bullied his way to the top of the greasy pole. Novak was not just a reporter, or even a columnist who could make or break political careers, but a media celebrity. He was accepted as a charter member of the guild of Washington correspondents. Until now his status lent him insulation from any error or offense.

CNN executives and producers had held discussions that reached a recent breaking point about what to do about their Novak problem. Ever since he had written a column on July 14, 2003, revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative, citing "two senior administration officials" as his sources, he had become a principal figure in a major news story. On July 6, 2003, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, disclosing that he had been sent on a secret mission by the CIA before the Iraq war to assess whether Saddam Hussein was seeking to purchase enriched yellowcake uranium in Niger. Wilson had concluded that Saddam was not. Despite Wilson's finding, confirmed by two other reports to the CIA, Bush included 16 words in his 2002 State of the Union address declaring that Saddam was seeking Niger uranium to produce nuclear weapons. That fear became the ultimate rationale for the invasion of Iraq. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," said then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Wilson's Op-Ed piece was the first revelation that the reason given for the war was based on false information. The administration reflexively sought to strike back at Wilson's credibility by suggesting that his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA operative, had been responsible for his being sent on that mission. The original assignment, however, came from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, and others in the CIA had authorized Wilson's trip. Robert Novak was the first person to expose Plame's identity.

Soon a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate whether the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, stipulating a 10-year prison sentence, or any other law, had been violated as a result of the leak to Novak. As fingers were pointed in the direction of Bush's senior political advisor, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the prosecutor questioned the president and vice president as well as other White House officials.
The prosecutor then turned his gaze to reporters who might have had information. He subpoenaed Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of the New York Times. Cooper eventually agreed to testify, while Miller refused and was jailed for contempt of court. Both had argued that revealing their sources was a breach of their First Amendment right as journalists.

While Cooper and Miller were embroiled in legal proceedings -- and Miller is now locked in a federal prison in Alexandria, Va. -- Novak, who wrote the initial story, maintained silence about whether he had testified and what he knew. He had become the man of mystery.

Miller's sentencing tightened the ring around Novak. He had covered numerous politicians in trouble, but finding himself in this spotlight was a novelty for him. Appearing on C-SPAN just before Miller went to jail, he expressed irritation at her and Cooper for making a case against testifying about their sources. "I don't know why they're upset with me," Novak said. "They ought to worry about themselves. I worry about myself."

Over the past two years, he has offered several conflicting accounts of the circumstances surrounding the information he received about Plame's identity. "I didn't dig it out; it was given to me," he told Newsday in his first explanation. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name, and I used it." Then, on Sept. 29, 2003, the day the criminal investigation was formally announced, Novak declared on CNN, "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this." Shifting back and forth in his chair, he engaged in a show of bravado. "It looks like the ambassador [Wilson] really doesn't know who leaked this to me," he said. He turned to a guest on the show, Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, and asked, "Do you know whether my source was in the White House? Do you know that at all?"

Two days later, back on CNN, Novak decried the investigation. "This kind of scandal ... is Washington at its worst," he said. Three days after that, he appeared again on CNN to defend his source as someone who "is not a partisan gunslinger." Then he fell into radio silence, declining to answer questions, on his counsel's advice.

But according to the
Washington Post, on July 27, 2005, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow "testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed. Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified."

Suddenly, an obviously upset Novak broke through his wall of silence. Five days later, on Aug. 1, he wrote a column that reflected his internal churning. He began by noting that his lawyer "urged me not to write this" but that he felt compelled to defend "my integrity." He insisted that he had used "suggesting," not "authorizing," to describe Plame's role, and that Harlow's statements in any case were "meaningless." He explained: "Once it was determined that Wilson's wife suggested the mission, she could be identified as 'Valerie Plame' by reading her husband's entry in 'Who's Who in America.'"

But Novak raised more questions than he answered. Had he in fact learned Plame's identity from "Who's Who"? What happened to those "two senior administration officials"? Most important, Novak still would not reveal whether he had testified and what he had said. Under the circumstances, it is unimaginable that he has not already proved to be a cooperative witness before the prosecutor. Had he not cooperated, he would have been subjected to the same subpoenas and contempt proceedings as Cooper and Miller. He also would have had to appear before the grand jury. It seems almost certain that his attorney arranged for Novak to give his testimony under oath in an interview with the prosecutor. Unlike an appearance before the grand jury, where no lawyer is permitted to be present, a witness who agrees to an interview is allowed to bring his attorney. Matt Cooper's detailed account of his grand jury testimony, published in
Time, continued to fuel the question of what Novak told the prosecutor.

At CNN, Novak's Aug. 1 column created something of a crisis. For some time, the news director and producers had tried to ask Novak about his knowledge of the Plame affair. How could the network claim to be a serious news organization if it gave Novak a free pass? Now they decided that Novak had to be asked about "Who's Who." Is that where he learned about Valerie Plame? Or was he diverting attention from where he really got the information?
CNN anchor Ed Henry placed a copy of "Who's Who" on the desk in front of Novak as he prepared to parry with his usual foil, Democratic political consultant James Carville. The proximate subject was the Senate candidacy of Republican Rep. Katherine Harris of Florida. "Don't be too sure she's going to lose ... all the establishment's against her and I've seen these Republican anti-establishment candidates who do pretty well," Novak said. Carville attempted to make a comment, but Novak cut him off. "Just let me finish what I'm going to say, James. Please, I know you hate to hear me, but you have ..." Carville replied that Novak has "got to show these right-wingers that he's got backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em you're tough." "Well, I think that's bullshit!" spat back Novak. "And I hate that." He turned to Henry, glancing at the volume of "Who's Who," and said, "Just let it go." With that, he removed his microphone and departed.

"I'm sorry as well that Bob Novak obviously left the set a little early," Henry explained to viewers. "I had told him in advance that we were going to ask him about the CIA leak case. He was not here for me to be able to ask him about that. Hopefully we'll be able to ask him about that in the future." But perhaps not for a long time, until CNN decides when to lift Novak's suspension, which some at CNN have suggested to me may not be until the Plame imbroglio is entirely resolved.

Just last year, the investigation was a laughing matter for Novak. He appeared onstage at the annual dinner at the Gridiron Club, the exclusive inner circle of the Washington press corps, of which he is a long-standing member. As a gag, Novak was attired as former diplomat Wilson, wearing top hat and cutaway coat, singing to the tune of "Once I Had a Secret Love": "Novak had a secret source who lived within the great White House ... so he outed a girl spy the way princes of darkness do ... Now John Ashcroft asks Bob who and how, could be headed to the old hoosegow." He belted out his last line with panache: "Cross the right wing you may try, Bob Novak's coming after you." The press corps hooted and clapped. They loved that Bob.

Novak began in one era of journalism and helped pioneer another. His career spanned the transformation of the Washington correspondent into media star, from front-page grub to buck-raking showboat. Novak came to Washington from the hinterlands in 1956 as a young man to report on the Associated Press' congressional beat. The Wall Street Journal snatched him up as its Senate reporter, drawing the eye of Rowland Evans, a writer on the New York Herald-Tribune. Evans was looking for a partner, what journalists call a "legman," to produce a syndicated column. Novak, the wire service machine, fit the bill.

Evans and Novak's column was highly successful, and together they coauthored valuable books on the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. (Their later book on Ronald Reagan was a rush job that was not of the same quality, as Evans freely admitted to me.) The polished, Yale-educated Evans was a smooth social presence within the Georgetown set. Novak was someone he worked with every day but rarely, if ever, saw in the evening. The two men were an odd couple, not because of any divergence of political perspective, but of class.

Novak did not truly come into his own until the advent of cable television altered the character of the Washington press corps. Once the archetype of the old-fashioned shoe-leather reporter and political inside dopester, Novak's identity changed overnight when he appeared on CNN on its opening week in 1980. The raw no-name network saw in Novak a symbol of credibility and authority. In addition to his frequent appearances on news programs, he and Evans were given a weekly interview show. Two years later, Novak became a regular on "The McLaughlin Group," which broke the mold of TV talk shows. It was not a calm, modulated, informative round table of polite reporters but a food fight. Novak thrived in the format, emerging as a vituperative, dismissive and mean-spirited bully, a cartoonlike character who attracted and repelled viewers. CNN promptly rewarded him with another show, "Crossfire," after the initial conservative host, Pat Buchanan, left. The liberal side of the program was filled with a shifting cast, while Novak was its constant centerpiece.

Although both Novak and McLaughlin were conservatives, they had an abrasive relationship. In the final analysis, Novak was jealous that McLaughlin was the sole proprietor of the program and reaped the profits. So he pulled aside the other figures on the show -- his friends Al Hunt, then bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, and Mark Shields, the columnist -- and made them an offer to join a new talk show. Novak cut a deal with CNN that made him the executive producer and star of "The Capital Gang."

Novak had now become a cottage industry. Evans retired, but Novak's column remained syndicated to more than 300 newspapers, including the Washington Post. The Evans and Novak show turned into "The Novak Zone." Novak was ubiquitous on CNN. "He's Novak -- he can do what he wants," a CNN source told me. He was also a frequent guest on the political panel of NBC's "Meet the Press." He continued the political newsletter he had begun with Evans, an important stream of income. He charged high fees to business executives to attend his retreats, which featured leading politicians who appeared at Novak's beck and call. They understood the implicit exchange for positive coverage.

Novak's columns always play favorites, ranging from neoconservative Richard Perle to supply-sider
Richard Gilder. Gilder, who has run the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee, also happens to be Novak's investment advisor, in charge of his financial portfolio. Twice, Karl Rove was dismissed from George H.W. Bush's campaign, in 1980 and 1992, respectively, for leaking to Novak. Those who agree to serve as sources for him receive protection from his wrath and an outlet when their interests and Novak's coincide. "Look, I'm not David Broder," Novak told Amy Sullivan of the Washington Monthly. "I'm not one of the real good guys. They try to make things nicer. That's not my deal."

Novak lives and breathes the nuts and bolts of politics, so it was somewhat startling when he held a public conversion to Catholicism from Judaism in 1998. He was raised as a Jew in Joliet, Ill., but his columns have been almost uniformly hostile to Israel. No one had ever seen his spiritual side before. His conversion ceremony at St. Patrick's in Washington was packed with invited guests, liberals and conservatives alike, with whom he has appeared on talk shows, from Fred Barnes to Margaret Carlson.

Novak's conversion was more than met the eye, as he became a member of the tightly knit far-right Catholic coterie clustered in Washington. Andrew Sullivan, the conservative Catholic writer, observed: "Perhaps the least-known aspect of Robert Novak's public persona is that he is a convert not just to Catholicism but to its most hard-line sect, Opus Dei. It helps explain Novak's occasional, weird digressions into defenses of the most far-right social causes, and also why those columns appear, without this context, to be, well, slightly unhinged."
Just as the children of many notables in Washington land jobs in politics or government, so Novak's son Alex surfaced as the marketing director of Regnery Publishing, the conservative book imprint. Since Alex has held his position, his father has promoted four Regnery books in his columns and on TV shows. During the 2004 campaign, Novak went all-out to hype Regnery's big product of the season, "Unfit for Command," a smear job of John Kerry's war record, by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Regnery's owner, Tom Phillips, also owns Eagle Publishing, which is the distributor of Novak's newsletter.

For years, Novak has used his various platforms to promote whatever causes and individuals he deems fit. Along the way, he has fostered any number of false assertions, accusations and innuendoes without any consequences to his standing in Washington. In 1989, he published a malicious rumor promoted by operatives at the Republican National Committee about the supposed sexual orientation of then House Majority Leader Tom Foley, referring to "the alleged homosexuality of one Democrat who might move up the succession ladder." Foley felt prompted to declare: "I am, of course, not a homosexual."

After the death of I.F. Stone, the iconoclastic, independent journalist of the left, Novak said on CNN that Stone had been a paid agent of the KGB. Author Eric Alterman, a columnist for the Nation and a friend of Stone's, wrote, "Since Stone was dead by this time, however, Novak was free to make his McCarthyite accusation without fear of a libel suit. I wrote to the president of CNN shortly thereafter to ask for a correction, but received no response."
Throughout 1997, Novak relied upon a source who had in fact been in the pay of the KGB, FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was apprehended and convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. Novak used Hanssen as his principal source for stories attempting to prove that Attorney General Janet Reno was covering up Clinton campaign finance scandals. The innuendo that Novak published turned out to be a flow of disinformation. In 2002, he wrote a column divulging his dependence on the spy. "To be honest to my readers, I must reveal it."

But none of this caused any disquiet at the newspaper that syndicates his column, the Chicago Sun-Times; at CNN; or at his most important outlet, the Washington Post. His friends and acquaintances continued their celebration of Novak the celebrity. In 2001, he was the honored guest at one of Washington's major charity roasts. When the media stars had finished their mild ribs, he took the stage. Above all, he said, he had learned one primary lesson from his long Washington experience: "There are two kinds of people in this town -- sources ... and targets, and you better make up your mind which you are."

For Novak, the Plame leak was business as usual. The only extraordinary wrinkle was the appointment of a special prosecutor. But immediately after Patrick Fitzgerald was named to the post, Novak's colleagues rallied to the defense of his reputation. Wolf Blitzer, the CNN anchor, declared: "All of us who know Bob Novak know he's one of the best reporters in the business and has been for nearly half a century." The editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, Steve Huntley, reminded everyone that Novak remains "one of the best reporters in this country." But no testimonial, Gridiron Club dinner or charity roast had the power to lift the pressure that prompted Novak to walk off the set of his beloved CNN last week.

As Novak now attempts to fend off his pursuers, he resorts to his old bullying; he brandishes his status, invents new stories, and tries to bargain with the truth. With each failed effort, he has become more frantic, racing from pillar to post, from television talk show to syndicated column, tossing off ever more illogical and tortured alibis that only heighten suspicion of him. By plying more tricks of the trade, his patented tidbits of disinformation, he confirms the impression of petty squalor. Instead of escaping through the fog of his distortions, he rivets searchlights on his desperate flight.

The self-described "prince of darkness" appears blinded by the light. He cannot see himself as everyone else does. He has called so much attention to himself that he casts no shadow at all. He is completely exposed. He has become a fugitive who cannot find a safe house in the town that he thought was his bailiwick. His craven torment and wild flailing at his inability to halt his self-destruction might cast him as a Dostoevskian figure. But his absence of doubt deprives him of the depth of existential crisis. Bob Novak now resembles Gypo Nolan, the Judas of John Ford's classic 1935 movie, "The Informer," an IRA traitor on the run, used to the comfort of matey sycophants, but whom no one will shield and who unwittingly betrays himself in the end.

This story has been
corrected since it was originally published.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About the writerSidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of
"The Clinton Wars," is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian of London.

My country is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits

From the Guardian UK:

It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too My country is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits Howard Zinn Friday August 12, 2005The Guardian It has quickly become clear that Iraq is not a liberated country, but an occupied country. We became familiar with that term during the second world war. We talked of German-occupied France, German-occupied Europe. And after the war we spoke of Soviet-occupied Hungary, Czechoslovakia, eastern Europe. It was the Nazis, the Soviets, who occupied countries. The United States liberated them from occupation.

Now we are the occupiers. True, we liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, but not from us. Just as in 1898 we liberated Cuba from Spain, but not from us. Spanish tyranny was overthrown, but the US established a military base in Cuba, as we are doing in Iraq. US corporations moved into Cuba, just as Bechtel and Halliburton and the oil corporations are moving into Iraq. The US framed and imposed, with support from local accomplices, the constitution that would govern Cuba, just as it has drawn up, with help from local political groups, a constitution for Iraq. Not a liberation. An occupation.

And it is an ugly occupation. On August 7 2003 the New York Times reported that General Sanchez in Baghdad was worried about the Iraqi reaction to occupation. Pro-US Iraqi leaders were giving him a message, as he put it: "When you take a father in front of his family and put a bag over his head and put him on the ground, you have had a significant adverse effect on his dignity and respect in the eyes of his family." (That's very perceptive.)
We know that fighting during the US offensive in November 2004 destroyed three-quarters of the town of Falluja (population 360,000), killing hundreds of its inhabitants. The objective of the operation was to cleanse the town of the terrorist bands acting as part of a "Ba'athist conspiracy".

But we should recall that on June 16 2003, barely six weeks after President Bush had claimed victory in Iraq, two reporters for the Knight Ridder newspaper group wrote this about the Falluja area: "In dozens of interviews during the past five days, most residents across the area said there was no Ba'athist or Sunni conspiracy against US soldiers, there were only people ready to fight because their relatives had been hurt or killed, or they themselves had been humiliated by home searches and road stops ... One woman said, after her husband was taken from their home because of empty wooden crates which they had bought for firewood, that the US is guilty of terrorism."

Soldiers who are set down in a country where they were told they would be welcomed as liberators and find they are surrounded by a hostile population become fearful and trigger-happy. On March 4 nervous, frightened GIs manning a roadblock fired on the Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, just released by kidnappers, and an intelligence service officer, Nicola Calipari, whom they killed.

We have all read reports of US soldiers angry at being kept in Iraq. Such sentiments are becoming known to the US public, as are the feelings of many deserters who are refusing to return to Iraq after home leave. In May 2003 a Gallup poll reported that only 13% of the US public thought the war was going badly. According to a poll published by the New York Times and CBS News on June 17, 51% now think the US should not have invaded Iraq or become involved in the war. Some 59% disapprove of Bush's handling of the situation.

But more ominous, perhaps, than the occupation of Iraq is the occupation of the US. I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupied country, that some alien group has taken over. I wake up thinking: the US is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth, the water or the air, or what kind of world will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.

More Americans are beginning to feel, like the soldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong. More and more every day the lies are being exposed. And then there is the largest lie, that everything the US does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a "war on terrorism", ignoring the fact that war is itself terrorism, that barging into homes and taking away people and subjecting them to torture is terrorism, that invading and bombing other countries does not give us more security but less.

The Bush administration, unable to capture the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, invaded Afghanistan, killing thousands of people and driving hundreds of thousands from their homes. Yet it still does not know where the criminals are. Not knowing what weapons Saddam Hussein was hiding, it invaded and bombed Iraq in March 2003, disregarding the UN, killing thousands of civilians and soldiers and terrorising the population; and not knowing who was and was not a terrorist, the US government confined hundreds of people in Guantánamo under such conditions that 18 have tried to commit suicide.

The Amnesty International Report 2005 notes: "Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times ... When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity".

The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocent people in other countries; it is a war on the people of the US: on our liberties, on our standard of living. The country's wealth is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen.

The Iraq war will undoubtedly claim many more victims, not only abroad but also on US territory. The Bush administration maintains that, unlike the Vietnam war, this conflict is not causing many casualties. True enough, fewer than 2,000 service men and women have lost their lives in the fighting. But when the war finally ends, the number of its indirect victims, through disease or mental disorders, will increase steadily. After the Vietnam war, veterans reported congenital malformations in their children, caused by Agent Orange.

Officially there were only a few hundred losses in the Gulf war of 1991, but the US Gulf War Veterans Association has reported 8,000 deaths in the past 10 years. Some 200,000 veterans, out of 600,000 who took part, have registered a range of complaints due to the weapons and munitions used in combat. We have yet to see the long-term effects of depleted uranium on those currently stationed in Iraq.

Our faith is that human beings only support violence and terror when they have been lied to. And when they learn the truth, as happened in the course of the Vietnam war, they will turn against the government. We have the support of the rest of the world. The US cannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people who protested around the world on February 15 2003.

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.

· Howard Zinn is professor emeritus of political science at Boston University; his books include A People's History of the United States
© Le Monde diplomatique
A version of this article appears in the August issue of Le Monde diplomatique's English language edition Mondediplo.com

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Delay & Abramoff & Friends

Tom, Jack, and Friends

By Josh Eidelson bio
From: Auction House

It can get confusing keeping track of the colorful cast of characters connecting Tom Delay and one of his “closest and dearest friends,” Jack Abramoff. So here are my nominations for Jack Abramoff’s top six associates of questionable repute (feel free to share your own):

Aug 10, 2005 -- 02:30:05 AM EST

Edwin Buckham: Buckham served as DeLay’s Chief of Staff (and pastor) for the three years following his ascension to Majority Leader and helped build his political machine before leaving for the private sector. The same London-Scotland trip DeLay took in 2000 on Abramoff’s credit card included a stay at a golf course hotel in Scotland where food and phone calls were billed, in violation of the same House rule, to Buckham, a registered lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute, AT&T, and Enron. DeLay’s wife, who joined him on the trip, at the time was also on the payroll of Buckham’s lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group, which now employs Rudy. ASG office suite is the same one listed as the address of the Korea – U.S. Exchange Council, from which DeLay accepted trips to South Korea, breaking the House rule against trips paid for by registered foreign agents.

Karl Gallant: DeLay appointed Gallant as Executive Director of his PAC, ARMPAC. Gallant served as chairman of the Republican Majority Issues Committee, a voter-ID and turnout group which was the target, with Tom DeLay, of an anti-racketeering lawsuit for illegal coordination. After Gallant left to work with Buckham at Alexander Strategy Group, DeLay helped Enron lobbyists plan a campaign for energy deregulation including hiring Gallant and Buckham through a front group, Americans for Affordable Electricity.

Grover Norquist: In the wake of the ’94 election, DeLay tapped Norquist – with help from Abramoff - to help initiate his “K Street Project” to pressure lobbyists only to hire and donate to Republicans. In May 2001, Norquist asked Abramoff to arrange lunch at the White House between George Bush and two tribal chiefs in exchange for donations to Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Recently unearthed e-mails from Abramoff contradict Norquist’s earlier claims that the $25,000 and the face-time were unrelated, which he re-iterated in a May letter to tribal leaders. The Justice Department is currently investigating donations of $1.5 million and $250,000, respectively, Abramoff convinced the Choctaws to make to ATR and to another group founded by Norquist and Norton. Evidence subpoenaed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee demonstrates that Abramoff and Scanloff intentionally funneled cash through nonprofits 501c4s like ATR which are not legally required to disclose donors. Abramoff’s records, released under FOIA, show frequent charges to his clients for consultations with Norquist. In May, the Times suggested that Norquist has begun trying to create distance between himself and the embattled Abramoff, telling reporters not long after Abramoff attended his April wedding that he was a “friend” with whom he had “no business or financial relationship.”

Ralph Reed: As Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, ramped up its advocacy of restrictions on gambling at the request of Scanlon and Abramoff in order to help them get more cash from the tribal chiefs who hired them to block the restrictions. He also pushed the Alabama chapter of the Coalition to lobby against casinos in Alabama that would compete with the Choctaws’ casinos in neighboring Mississippi. Choctaw cash was then laundered back to Reed through Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which as a 501c(4) was not required to report where the money came from. After he stepped down as head of the Coalition, Reed started a “grassroots coalition” with $4 million from organizations connected to Abramoff to campaign against a Texas tribe competing with a Louisiana tribe represented by Abramoff, who then convinced the Texas tribe to hire him as well. Congressional inquiry has uncovered a long-term e-mail correspondence between Reed and Abramoff coordinating strategy for the gambling campaigns; they traveled to Scotland together with Bob Ney amidst Abramoff’s lobbying to reopen a casino Reed had just lobbied to shut down. Reed has worked with Abramoff and Norquist since the ‘80s, when they led the College Republicans.

Tony Rudy: Tony C. Rudy came to work for DeLay in 1994, serving over the course of five years as General Counsel, Policy Director, Press Secretary, and Deputy Chief of Staff. According to Time, “sources say [Abramoff] developed a particularly close relationship with Tony Rudy.” The two shared hobbies, Abramoff bought Rudy tickets, and Rudy “would frequently e-mail Abramoff from inside Republican leadership meetings on a Motorola pager.” Rudy came along with DeLay on the 2000 European trip charged to Abramoff’s credit card. When Abramoff left Preston Gates & Ellis LLP in 2000 for rival lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, he convinced Rudy to leave his post as DeLay’s Chief to Staff to help build “Team Abramoff” at Greenberg Traurig. Business Week reported this month that Abramoff was e-mailing Rudy instructions while Rudy was still working for DeLay and under consideration for the Greenberg Traurig job. At Greenberg Traurig, Rudy worked with Abramoff and Mike Scanlon representing the Marianas islands; Abramoff had earlier represented the islands while he was with Preston Gates and Rudy was with DeLay. Every six weeks, Rudy, who now works for Buckham at Alexander Strategy Group, attends a “Team DeLay” meeting with others ex-staffers for DeLay still active in lobbying and politics, convened by former DeLay Legislative Director Drew Maloney.

Michael Scanlon: Scanlon served as a top aid and spokesman for DeLay before leaving to work in lobbying and public relations. While representing tribes opposing restrictions on the operations of their casinos, Scanlon was simultaneously working with Abramoff to press Ralph Reed to get the Christian Coalition to take a more hard-line stance in favor of such restrictions. He and Abramoff also used fake phone banks to inflate the perceived danger to the tribes from the Coalition. Scanlon would use the intensity of the Coalition’s opposition to gambling as a justification for asking the tribes for more cash, some of which would end up with Abramoff and, through Abramoff, with Reed. As part of their “Gimme Five” scheme, Abramoff sent the Choctaw tribe a fake invoice from Scanlon’s consulting firm for $1 million Abramoff and Scanlon split between themselves. Scanlon convinced a pair of his childhood friends to serve on paper as directors of a fictitious “American International Center” which served to launder money back to Scanlon and Abramoff, who was serving at the time as chief fundraiser for George W. Bush.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Halliburton & Iran

From Counterpunch:

Weekend Edition August 6 - 8, 2005
Still Doing Business After All These Years?
Halliburton and Iran

Scandal-plagued Halliburton, the oil services company once headed by Vice President Dick was secretly working with one of Iran’s top nuclear scientist's on natural gas related projects and, allegedly, selling the scientists' oil company key components for a nuclear reactor, according to Halliburton sources with intimate knowledge into both companies’ business dealings.

Just last week a National Security Council report said Iran was a decade away from acquiring a nuclear bomb. That time frame could arguably have been significantly longer if Halliburton, which just reported a 284 percent increase in its fourth quarter profits due to its Iraq reconstruction contracts, was not actively providing the Iranian government with the financial means to build a nuclear weapon.

Now comes word that Halliburton, which has a long history of flouting U.S. law by conducting business with countries the Bush administration said has ties to terrorism, was working with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil companies, on oil development projects in Tehran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team.“Nasseri, a senior Iranian diplomat negotiating with Europe over Iran's controversial nuclear program is at the heart of deals with US energy companies to develop the country's oil industry”, the Financial Times reported.

Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets and accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton, according to Iranian government officials.
It’s unclear whether Halliburton was privy to any of Iran’s nuclear activites. A company spokesperson did not return numerous calls for comment. A White House spokesperson also did not return calls for comment.

Oriental Oil Kish dealings with Halliburton became public knowledge in January when the company announced that it had subcontracted parts of the South Pars natural gas drilling project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Halliburton that is registered in the Cayman Islands.

Following the announcement, Halliburton announced the South Pars gas field project in Tehran would be its last project in Iran. The BBC reported that Halliburton, which took in $30-$40 million from its Iranian operations in 2003, "was winding down its work due to a poor business environment."

Halliburton, under mounting pressure from lawmakers in Washington, D.C., pulled out of its deal with Nassri's company in May, but has done extensive work on other areas of the Iranian gas project and was still acting in an advisory capacity to Nasseri's company, two people who have knowledge of Halliburton's wor in Iran said.
In attempt to curtail other U.S. companies from engaging in business dealings with rogue nations, the Senate approved legislation July 26 that would penalize companies that continue to skirt U.S. law by setting up offshore subsidiaries as a way to legally conduct business in Libya, Iran and Syria, and avoid U.S. sanctions under International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is part of the Senate Defense Authorization bill.

"It prevents U.S. corporations from creating a shell company somewhere else in order to do business with rogue, terror-sponsoring nations such as Syria and Iran," Collins said in a statement.
"The bottom line is that if a U.S. company is evading sanctions to do business with one of these countries, they are helping to prop up countries that support terrorism - most often aimed against America," she said.
The law currently doesn’t prohibit foreign subsidiaries from conducting business with rogue nations provided that the subsidiaries are truly independent of the parent company.But Halliburton’s Cayman Island subsidiary never did fit that description.

Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company and in possible violation of U.S. sanctions. According to a February 2001 report in the Wall Street Journal, "Halliburton Products & Services Ltd. works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Dubai and is "non-American." But, like the sign over the receptionist's head, the brochure bears the company's name and red emblem, and offers services from Halliburton units around the world." Moreover, mail sent to the company’s offices in Tehran and the Cayman Islands is forwarded to the company’s Dallas headquarters.

Not surprisingly, in a letter drafted by trade groups representing corporate executives vehemently objected to the amendment saying it would lead to further hatred and perhaps incite terrorist attacks on the U.S and “greatly strain relations with the United States’ primary trading partners.”

"Extraterritorial measures irritate relations with the very nations the U.S. must secure cooperation from to promote multilateral strategies to fight terrorism and to address other areas of mutual concern," said a letter signed by the Coalition for Employment through Exports, Emergency Coalition for American Trade, National Foreign Trade Council, USA Engage, U.S. Council on International Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Foreign governments view U.S. efforts to dictate their foreign and commercial policy as violations of sovereignty, often leading them to adopt retaliatory measures more at odds with U.S. goals.”Still, Collins’ amendment has some holes. As Washington Times columnist Frank Gaffney pointed out in a July 25 story, “the Collins amendment would seek to penalize individuals or entities who evade IEEPA sanctions — if they are "subject to the jurisdiction of the United States."

“This is merely a restatement of existing regulations. The problem with this formulation is that, in the process of purportedly closing one loophole, it would appear to create new ones. As Sen. Collins told the Senate: "Some truly independent foreign subsidiaries are incorporated under the laws of the country in which they do business and are subject to that country's laws, to that legal jurisdiction. There is a great deal of difference between a corporation set up in a day, without any real employees or assets, and one that has been in existence for many years and that gets purchased, in part, by a U.S. firm. It is a safe bet that every foreign subsidiary of a U.S. company doing business with terrorist states will claim it is one of the ones Sen. Collins would allow to continue enriching our enemies, not one prohibited from doing so.”Going a step further, Dow Jones Newswires reported that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sent letters in June to energy corporations demanding that the companies disclose in their security filings any business dealings with terrorist supporting nations.

“The letters have been sent by the SEC's Office of Global Security Risk, a special division that monitors companies with operations in Iran and other countries under U.S. sanctions, which were created by the U.S. Congress in 2004,” Dow Jones reported.

The move comes as investors have become increasingly concerned that they may be unwillingly supporting terrorist activity. In the case of Halliburton, the New York City Comptroller's office threatened in March 2003 to pull its $23 million investment in the company if Halliburton continued to conduct business with Iran.
The SEC letters are aimed at forcing corporations to disclose their profits from business dealings rogue nations. Oil companies, such as Devon Energy Corp., ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. that currently conduct business with countries that sponsor terrorism, have not disclosed the profits received from terrorist countries in their most recent quarterly reports because the companies don’t consider the earnings “material.”

Devon Energy was until recently conducting business in Syria. The company just sold its stake in an oil field there. ConocoPhillips has a service contract with the Syrian Petroleum Co. that expires on Dec. 31.
Jason Leopold is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold's website at
http://www.jasonleopold.com/ for updates.

Judith Miller's Tale Under Scrutiny -- At Her Own Paper

From Editor & Publisher:

Judith Miller's Tale Under Scrutiny -- At Her Own Paper It's quite possible that Miller had no ulterior or activist role in the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity, and her journalistic champions are justifiably standing by her. But a counter view is strongly emerging now, with a surprising number of Timesmen and Timeswomen (off the record) believing it, or at least fearing it is true. By William E. Jackson, Jr. (August 05, 2005) -- There are basically two possible and quite divergent scenarios surrounding jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller's involvement in the Plame/CIA leak case. It is quite possible that she had no ulterior or activist role in the leak and she really is just protecting her source(s) and her journalistic champions justifiably are standing by her. But a counter view, which I have been suggesting since February, is strongly emerging now, with a surprising number of Timesmen and Timeswomen (off the record) believing it, or at least fearing it is true.One would think that, as worries about Miller's true role rise with every day she spends in jail, The Times would finally answer a few questions about what it knows and when it knew it. Yet, in his eye-opening internal review of July 28, the paper's intelligence reporter in Washington, Doug Jehl, revealed: "Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times declined to address written questions about whether Ms. Miller was assigned to report about Mr. Wilson's trip, whether she tried to write a story about it, or whether she ever told editors or colleagues at the newspaper that she had obtained information about the role played by Ms. Wilson."Here we have a hint of the "split" at The Times. On one level is the top management -- Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and Bill Keller -- who endorse Miller's version that she was actually "reporting" on Plame in July 2003 and her view of herself as valiant defender of the First Amendment. A Times spokeswoman summed up the corporate bottom line last week: "Judy is an intrepid, principled, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has provided our readers with thorough and comprehensive reporting throughout her career."On another level, some of the paper's elite reporters -- not to mention some Times columnists -- suggest in various pieces on the Plame affair that they are somewhat skeptical of her claim that she was contemplating writing a story on Plame in early summer 2003. The issue is critical because, if she was not actually talking to people about a story, what was she talking to them about?Adam Liptak, who reports on legal affairs for The Times, stated to NPR's Terry Gross on August 2: "Judy and her lawyers have declined to answer the question of whether they have done anything at all to contact the source and try to obtain a satisfactory waiver" that would permit her to break confidentiality and testify before the grand jury.It is hard to fathom why national media critics have not made more of Doug Jehl's critical analysis in the July 28 Times, which raised doubts about Miller's claims to have been "reporting" on Plame in the summer of 2003. On August 1, I posed that issue to Howard Kurtz on "Media BackTalks" at the online Washington Post. His response: "The fact that Judith Miller never wrote a story about the Plame matter has been cited again and again from the first moment she was subpoenaed in the case. That does raise a question about the nature of her involvement, but it's possible she was just talking to her sources and this matter came up, or that she was reporting a story and didn't feel she had enough material to write (not an uncommon occurrence in journalism). I do think the Times should clarify her role..."On the day that Jehl's story was published, a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met with Miller in the Alexandria Detention Center. Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, who headed the delegation, said after the visit: "There's no good purpose in keeping this dedicated, honorable, committed professional in jail."But there is no free ride in public relations for Miller these days. The board of The American Society of Journalists and Authors revealed this week that it had voted unanimously to not go along with an earlier decision to give an award to Miller. It would hardly be surprising if the Times' Washington office produces a further story on her role, as rumor has it. One of the most interesting remarks on Miller in recent days came from an ex-Timesman. On NPR's "Morning Edition" of August 3, her former boss for investigations at The Times, Steve Engleberg, who was known for being a restraining influence on her, told David Folkenflik that Miller builds trust with sources because she shares "their obsessions and passions." But he cautioned that once a reporter "fishes in the waters that the intelligence services fish in" that water can include "charlatans and fabricators" (he did not mention Miller's friend Ahmad Chalabi by name).Then he added that, after he left the Times for The Oregonian, he had been "appalled" by some of her reporting from the field in Iraq in the spring of 2003. "That was just so patently below the standards that I thought The Times had for such things," he said. However, he put primary blame on Times editors for printing her stories on WMD. While not a commentary on the Plame case, it was another public relations blow for Miller.Some facts are clear. Miller never wrote a story about the Plame matter. The Times says it has no reporter's or editor's notes to turn over to the court, as requested. None of her reporter colleagues have come forward to attest that she was working on such a story. The Times, in print, until the Jehl article, was notably reticent in inquiring into the details of her own case, other than covering her courtroom appearances.On the other hand, despite his non-cooperation in answering his own reporter's questions, Keller has made several public appearances to defend Miller.In his August 2 appearance on "Charlie Rose," he emphasized that "Judy" had made the "choices" all along the way. Yet, he admitted he does not know what conversations she has had with confidential source(s), and their lawyers, about getting a genuine, uncoerced waiver. This brought to mind Times lawyer Floyd Abrams' previous acknowledgement that he did not necessarily know who her sources were. As Arianna Huffington has argued, "a lot hinges on how much of what Judy knows Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger also know."
William E. Jackson, Jr. (
letters@editorandpublisher.com) is a former arms control official and legislative aide in Congress. He has written about the Plame case for E&P for almost two years.

Member of Skull & Bones likely to oversee Plame investigation

From Newsweek:

Leak Investigation: An Oversight Issue?

Aug. 15, 2005 issue - The departure this week of Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who has accepted the post of general counsel at Lockheed Martin, leaves a question mark in the probe into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Comey was the only official overseeing special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation. With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recused, department officials say they are still trying to resolve whom Fitzgerald will now report to. Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is "likely" to be named as acting deputy A.G., a DOJ official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter tells NEWSWEEK. But McCallum may be seen as having his own conflicts: he is an old friend of President Bush's and a member of his Skull and Bones class at Yale. One question: how much authority Comey's successor will have over Fitzgerald. When Comey appointed Fitzgerald in 2003, the deputy granted him extraordinary powers to act however he saw fit—but noted he still had the right to revoke Fitzgerald's authority. The questions are pertinent because lawyers close to the case believe the probe is in its final stages. Fitzgerald recently called White House aide Karl Rove's secretary and his former top aide to testify before the grand jury. They were asked why there was no record of a phone call from Time reporter Matt Cooper, with whom Rove discussed the CIA agent, says a source close to Rove who requested anonymity because the FBI asked participants not to comment. The source says the call went through the White House switchboard, not directly to Rove.
—Michael Isikoff