Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cheney's residence status & Miers

According to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution, a presidential and vice presidential candidate inhabiting the same state cannot both earn that state's electoral votes.

This caused problems for Dick Cheney in 2000. He had been residing in Highland Park, Texas since 1995. But he wanted to run for vice president on the same ticket with Texan George W. Bush.

To solve the problem, Cheney put up his Texas home for sale and registered to vote in Wyoming.

But a lawsuit was filed in Dallas County that claimed that Cheney held a Texas driver's license listing his Highland Park address and that, on Feb. 22, 2000, he changed his personal records at the Texas Department of Public Safety and again listed the Dallas address. It also claimed Cheney's vehicles were registered in Texas, that he paid taxes on them in Dallas County, that he had filed federal income tax returns listing himself as a Texas resident and that he had lived in the Highland Park home for the last five years.

The case was assigned to Judge Sidney Fitzwater, a Republican appointed by former President Reagan. And the lead attorney for Cheney's defense was none other than Harriet Miers.

Miers' argument was that, even though residency laws require a year of residence, that Cheney "intended" to live in Wyoming and that was enough.

Miers was obviously successful and Bush/Cheney were free to accept any and all electoral votes the Supreme Court awarded.

Many have called Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court "cronyism," and I think this case shows where her allegiance lies.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bill Keller Memo & Miller's Security Access

Bill Keller Memo

Crooks & Liars has posted a memo to NY Times staff from Bill Keller.

In it he says "So it was a year before we got around to really dealing with the [WMD coverage] controversy. At that point, we published a long editors' note acknowledging the prewar journalistic lapses, and -- to my mind, at least as important - - we intensified aggressive reporting aimed at exposing the way bad or manipulated intelligence had fed the drive to war."

He also wrote "I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation, I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own."

What he didn't specifically express regret for was not sitting Miller down for a thorough debriefing over the WMD coverage, and some reporting of his own over her WMD stories, contacts, sources, and supposed security clearance.

Judith Miller's Security Access

Meanwhile, the Associated Press and the Washington Post released an article titled "Miller Clarifies Security Clearance Issue." In it is written "Miller told the paper for a story published Thursday that her 'clearance' was akin to the routine nondisclosure form for all reporters 'embedded' with military units, which she signed when she was deployed with the 75th Exploitation Task Force. The unit's job was to find weapons of mass destruction.

"Miller said she also agreed to additional ground rules permitting her to discuss some secret information only with two of the paper's top editors."

Yet in her "personal account" of her grand jury testimony, she said "I might have expressed frustration to Mr. Libby that I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq."

I guess she could mean that she wanted to discuss sensitive information with low-level editors (how many editors are there at the Times?) but, again, Miller's story just seems somewhere between incomplete and misleading.

The article also said "One of her attorneys, Floyd Abrams, told The Associated Press that while Miller's security status didn't rise to the level of having official clearance, it was still unusual.
'Although the form she signed was similar to that signed by other journalists, her selection to be exposed to highly classified information was approved at a significantly higher level than is generally done, and this was because she was routinely exposed to secret information,' he said."

I would not call that "clarifying" information. It still leaves the same questions remaining. Who, at the significantly higher level, approved her "unusual" clearance, how "unusual" was it, and why?

Help is desperately needed

The US media seems to be only able to cover one natural disaster at a time. Right now, it is the arrival of Hurricane Wilma.

What is not being covered enough is the terrible post earthquake situation in South Asia .

Officials raised the death toll to more than 47,700 people while regional authorities estimate figures as high as 79,000, according to The Associated Press. Local authorities reported 37,958 deaths in North West Frontier Province alone, another 40,000 in Kashmir and 1,360 in India.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called for an "immediate and exceptional escalation of the global relief effort," according to AP, to prevent a "second, massive wave of deaths" during the winter.

UN emergency relief chief, Jan Egeland said of the aid sent so far: "This is not enough. We have never had this kind of logistical nightmare ever. We thought the tsunami was the worst we could get. This is worse."

Brownie's FEMA employment extended

Today, the LA Times revealed that "[Michael] Brown is still on FEMA's payroll as a consultant... He works from home, where he is "pulling all the documentation together" for the investigations into Katrina response, she said, and his original 30-day contract was recently extended for another 30 days."

This comes right after the release of an email in which it seems Brown was too involved in dinner at a restaurant to deal with the unfolding Hurricane Katrina disaster. "He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes," Brown's press secretary, Sharon Worthy wrote in an email."Restaurants are getting busy," she said. "We now have traffic to encounter to go to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you."

Should Judith Miller still be in jail?

As UPI worded it, “Miller was jailed…for refusing to cooperate with a federal investigation into the disclosure of a CIA operative`s name.” The CIA operative’s name is Valerie Plame and Miller provided Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the federal grand jury a notebook of hers that included the name “Valerie Flame.”

The fact that Miller was in possession of the name (or close) was not in question. What it appears the investigation was seeking was from whom she learned the name. According to her
New York Times ‘personal account,” she testified that she “simply could not recall where that came from, when [she] wrote it or why the name was misspelled.” If true, why did she choose to go to jail for 85 days instead of testifying to her lack of recollection in the first place?

Most of the press accounts have revolved around Miller’s meetings with I. Lewis Libby and this was also the main topic of the personal account of her testimony (she mentioned the name ‘Libby’ 82 times in her story). Yet she claims that she
“testified that [she] did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.”

By asserting that she does not recollect who leaked Plame’s name to her, she was, in effect, still refusing to cooperate.
Since Fitzgerald has been secretive about the investigation, it is possible that he was seeking other information. But if the grand jury was seeking the source of the name “Valerie Plame,” then the contempt charge was ultimately unsuccessful.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pentagon agency charged with fraud watch left Iraq 'a year ago'

From Christian Science Monitor:

Pentagon agency charged with fraud watch left Iraq 'a year ago'
Meanwhile, new report shows Iraq most corrupt country in Middle East.
By Tom Regan csmonitor.comThe Pentagon agency in charge of investigating abuse and fraud in the spending of Department of Defense funds in Iraq actually "quietly left" the country a year ago. The Knight Ridder Washington Bureau reports that both government and public experts say this decision has left large gaps in "the oversight of how more than $140 billion is being spent."
The Defense Department's inspector general sent auditors into Iraq when the war started more than two years ago to ensure that taxpayers were getting their money's worth for everything from bullets to meals-ready-to-eat.
The auditors were withdrawn in the fall of 2004 because other agencies were watching spending, too. But experts say those other agencies don't have the expertise, access and broad mandate that the inspector general has – and don't make their reports public. That means that the bulk of money being spent in Iraq doesn't get public scrutiny, leaving the door open for possible waste, fraud and abuse, experts say.The revelation comes the same day that the annual Transparency International Global Corruption Report was published. That index showed that Iraq is the most corrupt country in the Middle East.

In a special section of the report on corruption In Iraq, Transparency International says that corruption – which thrives in a context of confusion and change – has been identified as one of the main obstacles to "getting Iraq back on its feet."
Almost unanimously, Iraqi businessmen complain about bribery affecting virtually all government operations. Contractors alleged that inspectors checking up on the refurbishment of schools by Iraqi companies in September 2003 were bribed to turn a blind eye to shoddy or unfinished work. Iraqi protestors amassing in front of the gates of the ‘green zone’, the CPA headquarters in Baghdad, routinely mentioned corruption on their banners. In Nasariya, Sunni Muslim clerics expressed their anger over what they believed was widespread corruption in the CPA and local authorities. Foreign company workers said they witnessed corruption ‘everywhere and on all sides’.Last month, CNN reported that large-scale corruption in Iraq's ministries, particularly the defense ministry, "has led to one of the biggest thefts in history with more than $1 billion going missing," according to Iraq's finance minister. Corruption in the bidding and awarding of contracts, and in the administration of public offices, "is one of the most frequent accusations made by Iraqis against their government and foreign firms operating in the country."
Some of the worst allegations of impropriety concern the purchasing of military equipment by the defense ministry under the previous government, including more than $230 million spent on 28-year-old second-hand Polish helicopters.
"If you compare the amount that was allegedly stolen of about $1 billion compared with the budget of the ministry of defense, it is nearly 100 percent of the ministry's (procurement) budget that has gone (missing)," [Finance Minister Ali Allawi] said. Most of the questionable contracts are said to have been signed under the previous government, headed by Iyad Allawi, which served from June 28, 2004 until late February this year.In an article to be published in the Oct. 24 edition of The American Conservative, but currently available on its website, Philip Giraldi (a former CIA Officer and a partner in Cannistraro Associates, an international security consultancy) writes that billions of dollars have disappeared in Iraq. Mr. Giraldi alleges that the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which was in charge in Iraq until last year, bears a huge responsibility for what has happened.
The American-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority could well prove to be the most corrupt administration in history, almost certainly surpassing the widespread fraud of the much-maligned UN Oil for Food Program. At least $20 billion that belonged to the Iraqi people has been wasted, together with hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars. Exactly how many billions of additional dollars were squandered, stolen, given away, or simply lost will never be known because the deliberate decision by the CPA not to meter oil exports means that no one will ever know how much revenue was generated during 2003 and 2004.Mr. Giraldi writes that during the 15-month leadership of the CPA, it distributed $20 billion, "two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets."
Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. The CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board, which it controlled, made a deliberate decision not to record or “meter” oil exports, an invitation to wholesale fraud and black marketeering.
Thus the country was awash in unaccountable money. British sources report that the CPA contracts that were not handed out to cronies were sold to the highest bidder, with bribes as high as $300,000 being demanded for particularly lucrative reconstruction contracts.In a sign of how issues like corruption, and the originally unforeseen need for heavy security in Iraq, are affecting rebuilding efforts, The Washington Post reports that Stuart W. Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Tuesday told Congress that there is a "reconstruction gap" in the country. Mr. Bowen said that administration promises to use $18 billion provided by Congress to "rebuild water, electricity, health and oil networks to prewar levels or better are running into cold reality." Bowen said the administration will be able to provide "something less than that."
The hearing came with uncertainty over who will be watching over future spending in Iraq. Bowen's office could disappear as soon as next year, though pending legislation would extend its life. [The State Department's inspector general, Howard J. Krongard,] said he has not yet received funding for 2006 to provide oversight in Iraq. And the Defense Department's acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, revealed that his office does not have a single staff member in Iraq.
Rep. Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut, chairman of the national security subcommittee, said that while the recent constitutional referendum was an "auspicious" sign for Iraq, problems with the reconstruction are damaging "prospects for success."

Powell Aid: ‘Cheney cabal hijacked US foreign policy’

From Financial Times:

‘Cheney cabal hijacked US foreign policy’
By Edward Alden in Washington

Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.
In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.
“Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”
Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea or to back European efforts on Iran.
It also resulted in bitter battles in the administration among those excluded from the decisions.
“If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran.”
The comments, made at the New America Foundation, a Washington think-tank, were the harshest attack on the administration by a former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke, former White House terrorism czar, and Paul O'Neill, former Treasury secretary, early last year.
Mr Wilkerson said his decision to go public had led to a personal falling out with Mr Powell, whom he served for 16 years at the Pentagon and the State Department.
“He's not happy with my speaking out because, and I admire this in him, he is the world's most loyal soldier."
Among his other charges:
■ The detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere was “a concrete example” of the decision-making problem, with the president and other top officials in effect giving the green light to soldiers to abuse detainees. “You don't have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you've condoned it.”
■ Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and now secretary of state, was “part of the problem”. Instead of ensuring that Mr Bush received the best possible advice, “she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president”.
■ The military, particularly the army and marine corps, is overstretched and demoralised. Officers, Mr Wilkerson claimed, “start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam. . . and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel”.
Mr Wilkerson said former president George H.W. Bush “one of the finest presidents we have ever had” understood how to make foreign policy work. In contrast, he said, his son was “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either”.
“There's a vast difference between the way George H.W. Bush dealt with major challenges, some of the greatest challenges at the end of the 20th century, and effected positive results in my view, and the way we conduct diplomacy today.”

Iraq War expanded to Syria

From Toledo Blade:

Expanding Iraq War into Syria is lunacy

AS I suspected six months ago, and U.S. military and Bush Administration civilian officials confirmed, U.S. forces have invaded Syria and engaged in combat with Syrian forces.
An unknown number of Syrians are acknowledged to have been killed; the number of Americans - if any - who have died so far has not yet been revealed by the U.S. sources, who, by the way, insist on remaining faceless and nameless.
The parallel with the Vietnam War, where a Nixon administration deeply involved in a losing war expanded the conflict - fruitlessly - to neighboring Cambodia, is obvious. The result was not changed in Vietnam; Cambodia itself was plunged into dangerous chaos which climaxed in the killing fields, where an estimated 1 million Cambodians died as a result of internal conflict.
On the U.S. side, no declaration of war preceded the invasion of Syria, in spite of the requirements of the War Powers Act of 1973. There is no indication that Congress was involved in the decision to go in. If members were briefed, none of them has chosen to share that important information with the American people.
Presumably, the Bush Administration's intention is simply to add any casualties of the Syrian conflict to those of the war in Iraq, which now stand at 1,970. The financial cost of expanding the war to Syria would also presumably be added to the cost of the Iraq war, now estimated at $201 billion.
The Bush Administration would claim that it is expanding the war in Iraq into Syria to try to bring it to an end, the kind of screwy non-logic that kept us in Vietnam for a decade and cost 58,193 American lives.
Others would see the attacks in Syria as a desperate political move on the part of an administration with its back against the wall, with an economy plagued by inflation, the weak response to Hurricane Katrina, investigations of senior executive and legislative officials, and the bird flu flapping its wings on the horizon. The idea, I suppose, is to distract us by an attack on Syria, now specifically targeted by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.
And then there is the tired old United Nations. An invasion by one sovereign member, the United States, of the territory of another sovereign member (Syria), requires U.N. Security Council action.
Some observers have argued that destabilizing Syria, creating chaos there, even bringing about regime change from President Bashar Assad, would somehow improve Israel's security posture in the region. The argument runs that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the biggest regional threat to Israel; Mr. Assad's Syria is second. The United States got rid of Saddam; now it should get rid of the Assad regime in Damascus.
The trouble with that argument, whether it is made by Americans or Israelis, is that, in practice, it depends on the validity of the premise that chaos and civil war - the disintegration of the state - in Iraq and Syria are better for Israel in terms of long-term security than the perpetuation of stable, albeit nominally hostile, regimes.
The evidence of what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in early 2003 is to the contrary. Could anyone argue that Israel is made safer by a burning conflict in Iraq that has now attracted Islamic extremist fighters from across the Middle East, Europe, and Asia? Saddam's regime was bad, but this is a good deal worse, and looks endless.
Is there any advantage at all to the United States, or to Israel, in replicating Iraq in Syria?
For that is what is at stake. Syria in its political, ethnic, and religious structure is very similar to Iraq. Iraq, prior to the U.S. bust-up, was ruled by a Sunni minority, with a Shiite majority and Kurdish and Christian minorities. Syria is ruled by an Alawite minority, with a Sunni majority and Kurdish and Christian minorities. That is the structure, not unlike many states in the Middle East, that the Bush Administration is in the process of hacking away at.
It seems utterly crazy to me.
One could say, "Interesting theory; let's play it out," if it weren't for the American men and women, not to mention the Iraqis and now Syrians, dying in pursuit of that policy.
What needs to be done now is for the Congress, and through them, the American people, the United Nations, and America's allies, the ones who are left, to have the opportunity to express their thoughts on America's expanding the Iraq war to Syria.
A decision to invade Syria is not a decision for Mr. Bush, heading a beleaguered administration, to make for us on his own.
Dan Simpson, a retired diplomat, is a member of the editorial boards of The Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Revealing Rice quote

"I don't think the president ever takes any of his options off the table concerning anything to do with military force," Rice said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Aspen Tree primer

From Slate:

Do Aspens Turn in Clusters?
How much does Scooter Libby really know about trees?
By Daniel EngberPosted Monday, Oct. 17, 2005, at 3:35 PM PT

Listen to this story on NPR's Day to Day.

In Sunday's New York Times, reporter Judith Miller
described her testimony to the grand jury investigating the leaked identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Miller was quizzed about a cryptic letter she received from her confidential source, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. "You went into jail in the summer," wrote Libby. "It is fall now … Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work—and life." Do aspens really turn in clusters because their roots connect them?
No. Aspen trees do grow in clusters, or "clones," that share a common root system and have identical DNA. That doesn't mean they all "turn"—that is, change colors—at the same time, though. Leaves turn colors in the fall according to both genetic and environmental factors; the exact day depends on the sunlight, temperature, and precipitation to which they're exposed. Since aspen clusters can be quite expansive—the largest single organism on record contains more than 47,000 identical, interconnected "stems" spread out over 17 acres—certain trees could get more sunlight than others and change color on different schedules. A week or more might elapse between the turning of the first and last trees in a stand of aspens.
Shared genes do control some stages of the aspen life cycle. In the spring, for example, clusters of connected aspens all grow their leaves back at the same time. Different stems in the same clone also share physical traits, like bark color. When clusters of aspens turn in the fall, they all turn the same color: The leaves on every tree in one clone may
turn gold, while those on the trees in another clone turn crimson.
Aspen clones
develop through a process of asexual reproduction called "root suckering." Unlike many other trees, new aspens rarely come from seeds; they almost always grow as extensions from an existing root system.* Suckers can pop out of the ground in great numbers—tens of thousands per acre—and can appear dozens of feet away from the nearest stem. Each new sucker gets the benefit of a pre-existing root system that delivers nutrients from the soil. As each one matures, it sends out its own roots, which in turn produce more suckers. (Aspens aren't the only trees that propagate through root suckering. Varieties like the black locust, sassafras, beech, and white poplar can clone themselves in the same way.)
Bonus Explainer: What was the point of Libby's metaphor? Only Libby knows. In her grand jury testimony, Miller said the last time she'd seen him was
just after a conference in Aspen, Colo. Bloggers think the phrase might have been code for something more nefarious. Some theories: Libby was referring to a different conference in Aspen, Colo.; to the Aspen Institute in West Berlin; to the interconnected neocon coterie. Or maybe his mention of a tree that's sometimes known as the "quaking aspen" suggests that someone in the White House is trembling with fear.

Explainer thanks Michael Grant of the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Correction, Oct. 18, 2005: This article originally stated that aspens don't deposit seeds. They do lay down seeds, but these offspring almost never reach maturity. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.
Related in Slate
Mickey Kaus addressed the aspens letter
here, here, and here.
Daniel Engber is a regular contributor to Slate. Photograph of aspen leaves by Dudley Dana/Picture Arts.

Miller Plame links

Here is the NYTimes story

Here is Judith Miller's defence

Here are copies of letters sent, including Libby's "Aspens are Turning letter."

Here is ThinkProgress' Right Wing Myth sheet:

Right-Wing Myths About The Leak Investigation
Patrick Fitzgerald hasn’t even concluded his investigation, but the right-wing is already spinning the truth in anticipation of indictments. This document provides the facts to set the record straight.
(Comment on this page here.)
CLAIM — FITZGERALD WAS SUPPOSED TO BE INVESTIGATING THE INTELLIGENCE IDENTITIES PROTECTION ACT (IIDA): “On July 30, the CIA referred to the justice department, the leaking of Valerie Wilson or Valerie Plame’s name, for investigation under the — what’s it called? (Brit Hume: “Foreign Intelligence and Identities Act, very odd name”) There’s almost no chance I think that Rove or Libby are going to be prosecuted for violating that act.” [Bill Kristol, Fox News Sunday, 10/16/05]
FACT – THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DELEGATION TO FITZGERALD DIDN’T MENTION THE IIDA: “By the authority vested in the Attorney General by law, including 28 U.S.C. 509, 510, and 515, and in my capacity as Acting Attorney General pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 508, I hereby delegate to you all the authority of the Attorney General with respect to the Department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity, and I direct you to exercise that authority as Special Counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the Department.” [Letter from James B. Comey, Acting Attorney General, to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney, 12/30/03]
FACT – FITZGERALD WAS GIVEN THE SAME AUTHORITY AS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PROSECUTE ANY VIOLATION OF THE LAW: “The Department, in appointing Special Counsel Fitzgerald under “other law”, has afforded him independence by delegating all of the Attorney General’s authority with respect to the investigation and instructing him to exercise that authority independent of the control of any officer of the Department.” [GAO, 12/30/04]
FACT – THE CIA REFERRAL TO THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT DIDN’T MENTION THE IIDA: ” But the CIA’s initial “crimes report” to the Justice Department requesting the leak probe never mentioned that law, says a former government official who requested anonymity because of the confidential material involved. Fitzgerald may be looking at other laws barring the disclosure of classified info or the possibility that current or former White House aides made false statements or obstructed justice.” [Newsweek, 8/1/05]
CLAIM – FITZGERALD IS A “RUNAWAY PROSECUTOR”: “I think it shows the danger of runaway prosecutors…you have is a system that essentially creates a crime in the search of a nonexistent crime. And that looks unjust to me.” [Charles Krauthammer, Fox News Sunday, 10/9/05]
FACT – BUSH SAID FITZGERALD WAS CONDUCTING A “VERY DIGNIFIED INVESTIGATION”: “The special prosecutor is conducting a very serious investigation - he’s doing it in a very dignified way.” [President Bush, 10/11/05]
CLAIM — LEAKING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION IS NO BIG DEAL: “In today’s Washington, as has been true for decades, classified information is leaked by many different players in any given policy fight in the government.” [Weekly Standard, 10/24/05]
FACT – GEORGE H.W. BUSH SAID EXPOSING AN UNDERCOVER CIA AGENT WAS “THE MOST INSIDIOUS OF CRIMES”: “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.” [George H.W. Bush, Speech at CIA, 4/26/99; Video]
CLAIM – VALERIE WILSON WASN’T AN UNDERCOVER AGENT: “Now, look, Fitzgerald has had two years, two years to answer a simple question, and that is, was the law violated by someone having willfully exposed a CI — an undercover CIA agent? Now, we know that wasn’t true. The, Valerie Plame wasn’t even an undercover agent at the time.” [Fred Barnes, Fox News, 10/15/05]
FACT – CIA SAYS WILSON WAS UNDERCOVER: “But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in nonconventional weapons who worked overseas, had ‘nonofficial cover,’ and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a Noc, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create.” [New York Times, 10/5/03]
CLAIM – THE LEAK INVESTIGATION REPRESENTS THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POLITICS: “I am worried about what happens to the administration if Rove is indicted. I think it’s the criminalization of politics that’s really gotten totally out of hand.” [Bill Kristol, Fox News , 10/14/05]
FACT – BUSH SAID THE LEAK WAS A CRIME: And, you know, there’s a lot of leaking in Washington, D.C. It’s a town famous for it. And if this helps stop leaks of — this investigation in finding the truth, it will not only hold someone to account who should not have leaked — and this is a serious charge, by the way. We’re talking about a criminal action, but also hopefully will help set a clear signal we expect other leaks to stop, as well. And so I look forward to finding the truth. [President Bush, 10/6/03]
CLAIM – PERJURY AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE ARE “TECHNICALITIES”: “Don`t you sort of feel a little bad that your side is winning on essentially what is a technicality?” [Tucker Carlson, MSNBC, 10/7/05]
FACT – PERJURY IS A FELONY: [Anyone who] is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. [U.S. Code]
FACT – OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IS A FELONY: “Whoever willfully endeavors by means of bribery to obstruct, delay, or prevent the communication of information relating to a violation of any criminal statute of the United States by any person to a criminal investigator shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” [U.S. Code]
CLAIM — JOE WILSON LIED ABOUT EVERYTHING: “[V]irtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.” [Weekly Standard, 10/24/05]
FACT – WILSON CONCLUDED IRAQ INTELLIGENCE NUCLEAR WAS EXAGGERATED: “I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.” [Wilson, NYTimes, 7/6/03]
FACT – N.I.E. CONTAINED CLAIM THAT URANIUM EVIDENCE WAS “HIGHLY DUBIOUS”: The N.I.E. “noted reports that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Africa but included a warning from the State Department that the reports were ‘highly dubious.’” [NYT, ]FACT%20-%20THREE%20SEPARATE%20REPORTS%20CONCLUDED%20INTELLIGENCE%20ON%20URANIUM%20WAS%20WEAK:%20In%20addition%20to%20Wilson’s%20claims,%20former%20US%20Ambassador%20to%20Niger,%20Barbro%20Owens-Kirkpatrick,%20and%20her%20staff%20had%20already%20concluded%20the%20intelligence%20was%20false%20by%20the%20time%20he%20arrived%20in%20the%20country.%20Four-Star%20Marine%20Gen.%20Carlton%20W.%20Fulford%20Jr.%20met%20with%20Niger%20president%20in%20February%202002%20to%20check%20the%20security%20of%20the%20country’s%20uranium.%20Fulford%20reported%20that%20he%20was%20“convinced%20it%20was%20not%20an%20issue,”%20and%20passed%20his%20findings%20to%20Gen.%20Richard%20B.%20Myers,%20chairman%20of%20the%20Joint%20Chiefs.%20[Washington%20Post,%207/15/03; NYT, 7/6/03]
FACT – FINAL WMD REPORT COMMISSIONED BY BUSH FOUND NO URANIUM WAS SOUGHT BY IRAQ: The final Iraq Survey Group report concluded, “ISG has uncovered no information to support allegations of Iraqi pursuit of uranium from abroad in the post-Operation Desert Storm era.” [Comprehensive Report of the Special Adviser to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, 9/30/04]
*****CLAIM – WILSON LIED ABOUT HIS TRIP TO NIGER: Former Rove deputy Ken Mehlman: “What Joe Wilson alleged was that the vice president, then he said the CIA director sent him to Niger.” [CNN, 7/12/05]
FACT – WILSON NEVER SAID CHENEY PERSONALLY SENT HIM TO NIGER: Bloomberg reported, “Wilson never said that Cheney sent him, only that the vice president’s office had questions about an intelligence report that referred to the sale of uranium yellowcake to Iraq from Niger. Wilson, in his New York Times article, said CIA officials were informed of Cheney’s questions. ‘The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office,’ Wilson wrote.” [Bloomberg, 7/14/05]
CLAIM – ADMINISTRATION WAS CORRECTING A FALSE REPORT: Mehlman: “He tried to discourage a reporter from writing a story that was false. He said it would be false. He said, ‘You shouldn’t write it.’ And the reporter wrote it anyway, even though it turned out to be false. I think what Karl Rove was saying was right; what Joe Wilson was saying was wrong.” [CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports, 7/12/05]
FACT – WILSON’S CLAIMS HAVE HELD UP IN THE FACE OF FIRE: Bloomberg recently reported, “Two-year old assertions by former ambassador Joseph Wilson regarding Iraq and uranium, which lie at the heart of the controversy over who at the White House identified a covert U.S. operative, have held up in the face of attacks by supporters of presidential adviser Karl Rove.” [Bloomberg, 7/14/05]

An exchange of words at The Times

Here's a rumor from the NYDaily News:

The New York Times gave Judith Miller 3,454 words in Sunday's paper to defend her actions in the Valerie Plame affair. But we hear Miller didn't appreciate the scourging she got in an accompanying 5,805-word analysis of "The Miller Case." We're told that colleagues heard Miller and executive editor Bill Keller screaming at each other in the hours before the story went to bed. (A Times spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Miller and Keller had traded words.)
Miller is said to have implored Keller to tone down the piece's criticism of her. Nevertheless, it reported that she was "a divisive figure," and that in 2003 Keller told her she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons issues because her reporting about Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction was so far off the mark.
Whatever her sins, Miller got a standing ovation from more than half the crowd yesterday when she received the First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in Las Vegas. Miller, who once dubbed herself "Miss Run Amok" because "I can do whatever I want," is due to testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a federal shield law.

Where's Osama

Boston Globe has a (non) story about Osama missing:

Wanted, dead or alive: Where's bin Laden now?
By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Columnist October 18, 2005
WASHINGTON -- It's been four years since President Bush, in the first days after the worst terrorist attack on US soil, declared: ''I want justice. And there's an old poster out West . . . I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.' "
That ringing call referred to Osama bin Laden, whose desire to destroy the United States has now been the basis for billions of dollars in security planning, a war in Afghanistan, and nuclear nightmares that continue to disturb the sleep of millions of Americans.
Bin Laden, of course, has not been caught. Nor has Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, who harbored bin Laden as he plotted the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nor has Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's top lieutenant. Nor has the anthrax terrorist who paralyzed Washington in 2001. Nor has Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man responsible for beheadings in Iraq.
The United States, of course, has captured many other Al Qaeda leaders, the most important being Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the leading 9/11 plotter, who was widely considered to be Al Qaeda's third-ranking leader. The United States also has tracked down most of the Iraqi leaders pictured on playing cards distributed everywhere from Tikrit to gas stations on I-95.
Tomorrow, the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, is scheduled to go on trial, in an event that is considered crucial to healing Iraq's wounds.
But the failure to capture so many of the people responsible for attacks on Americans has to be considered a disappointment. As years have passed, with few reports of progress in the inquiries involving bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and the anthrax killer, high-ranking officials largely have stopped talking about them. And the public, from talk-radio shouters to the most devout Internet conspiracy theorists, has been strangely muted as well.
It's as if all of America recognizes the stakes in capturing these terrorist leaders, yet it doesn't want to confront the fact that so many hunts have been fruitless.
But as Hussein's trial proves yet again the cathartic effect of bringing a wrongdoer to justice, Americans will no doubt have occasion to wish for the capture of other demons.
And it may be useful to bring the manhunt for bin Laden and others back into the spotlight, since specific factors seem to be undermining each case.
Dan Benjamin, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration and a coauthor of the new book ''The Next Attack," argues that the search for bin Laden has been hampered by a diversion of resources to Iraq, and by some measure of deference to Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. ''Given the diversion of resources early in 2002, given the way we've played the relationship with Pakistan, it's not surprising that we haven't found bin Laden," Benjamin said in an interview.
The same factors would have hampered the search for al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar.
The anthrax attacker, however, is now believed by most authorities to be unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism, a domestic terrorist who sought to capitalize on the wave of fear following Sept. 11, 2001.
That fact puts him or her in a different category -- one made all the more mysterious as the attacks have stopped, and as the trail, apparently, has grown cold.
The failure to capture Zarqawi is less a mystery than proof of the difficulty of tracking down a stealth warrior.
Back when Hussein was in charge of Iraq, Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad for two months of medical treatment.
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell has cited Zarqawi's visit to Baghdad as proof of Iraq's complicity with Al Qaeda, presumably because Hussein's regime could easily have captured him, if it weren't secretly cooperating with terrorists.
''Iraq officials deny accusations of ties with Al Qaeda," Powell told the United Nations, referring to Zarqawi. ''These denials are simply not credible."
But the United States has been in Iraq for 2 1/2 years and still hasn't been able to collar Zarqawi, who, far from hiding out, has been conducting brazen attacks on Iraqi citizens and coalition forces.
His continued ability to menace US and Iraqi citizens reveals how badly Americans underestimated the difficulty of capturing terror leaders.
But the difficulty, and the discomfort it causes to all Americans, are not reasons to allow these manhunts to fade into the fringes of national debate: One way to celebrate Hussein's coming to justice would be to redouble efforts to capture other mass murderers.
Dead or alive.
Peter S. Canellos is the Globe's Washington bureau chief. National Perspective is his weekly analysis of events in the capital and beyond.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Contacts between reporter, Cheney aide questioned

From Boston Globe:

Dispute centered on letter from Libby
By Pete Yost By Pete Yost, Associated Press October 17, 2005
WASHINGTON -- New details about Judith Miller's decision to cooperate in the CIA leak probe are raising questions about whether Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and his defense lawyer tried to steer the New York Times reporter's testimony.
The dispute arose as the newspaper yesterday detailed three conversations Miller had with the Cheney aide, I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby, in the summer of 2003 about Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and Wilson's wife, covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.
The issue over the contacts between Miller, Libby, and their representatives has arisen even though Libby's lawyer insisted his client granted an unconditional waiver of confidentiality more than a year ago for the reporter to testify.
In urging her to cooperate with prosecutors, Libby wrote to Miller while she was in jail in September: ''I believed a year ago, as now, that testimony by all will benefit all. . . . The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me."
One of Miller's lawyers, Robert Bennett, said yesterday on ABC's ''This Week" that Libby's letter was ''a very stupid thing to do."
RELATED STORY: Miller recounts blame game over Iraq war
When asked whether he thought Libby's letter was an attempt to steer her prospective testimony, Bennett said, ''I wouldn't say the answer to that is yes, but it was very troubling."
In a first-person account in the Times, Miller said that in her recent grand jury testimony, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked her ''whether I thought Mr. Libby had tried to shape my testimony."
Miller said she told Fitzgerald the letter could be perceived as an effort by Libby ''to suggest that I, too, would say that we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity." But she said her notes of the conversations ''suggested that we had discussed her job" at the CIA and not her name.
Miller wrote Plame's name in the same notebook she used when taking notes of her Libby interviews in 2003, but the reporter said she did not think she had gotten the name from Libby. She said she could not recall from whom she got the name.
The Times reported that more than a year ago, Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, passed along to Miller lawyer Floyd Abrams information about Libby's grand jury testimony. During the testimony, Libby said he had not told Miller the name or undercover status of Plame, the Times reported.
Miller told the newspaper that Abrams gave her the following description of a conversation Abrams had with Tate: ''He was pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there,' or, 'We don't want you there.' "
In an e-mail to the Times on Friday, Tate called Miller's interpretation outrageous. ''I never once suggested that she should not testify," Tate wrote. ''It was just the opposite. I told Mr. Abrams that the waiver was voluntary."
Tate added, '' 'Don't go there' or 'We don't want you there' is not something I said, would say, or ever implied or suggested."

Judy Miller and the damage done

From Salon:

The long-awaited New York Times report uncovered an internal mess that's "bigger than Jayson Blair." And it looks even worse for Scooter Libby.
By Farhad Manjoo

Oct. 16, 2005 During the past couple of weeks, the New York Times has been promising to eventually publish a thorough account of its reporter Judith Miller's run-in with federal prosecutors investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. On Sunday, the paper finally published that
report. Unfortunately, the account, along with a personal firsthand account by Miller herself, raises more questions -- about Miller, the Times and the Bush administration's attempts to manipulate the press -- than it answers.
The paper's coverage provides a broad and intriguing outline of Miller's dealings with I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and his attempts to discredit Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who began criticizing the Bush administration's case for war in the summer of 2003.
But many details in the report are mystifying. In particular, it's unclear why the Times allowed Miller -- a reporter whose discredited work on weapons of mass destruction had recently embarrassed the paper -- to be put in charge of the Times' response to investigators looking into the Plame leak. Some revelations are astonishing: Apparently nobody at the newspaper asked to review Miller's notes in the Plame case before allowing her to defy Fitzgerald, and before the paper's management made her a high-profile symbol of press freedom in peril.
The Times account shows that senior management did not press Miller on her sources and what the sources had revealed to her about Plame, before backing her stance in public and in numerous editorials. It's hard to imagine why they didn't make sure she wasn't being used by officials in the Bush administration who may have been breaking the law. Then there's the matter of Miller's own unethical actions: The Times' report showed she lied to her editors about her involvement in the case, and maybe more disturbing, she agreed to allow Libby to hide his motives from readers by identifying him in two different ways. Why is she still working at the paper? (Unconfirmed reports say she has taken a leave of absence, but there's no word of any disciplinary action against her.)
Beyond the implications for Miller and the paper, the Times' report provides provocative new hints about what the grand jury investigating the leak of Plame's identity may be focusing on in the final weeks before it possibly hands down indictments against senior White House officials. The report does not look good for Libby. It indicates that he revealed Plame's identity to Miller, and, according to her own account, may have attempted to prevent her from telling all she knew about his role in the case to investigators. According to Miller, Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor heading the case, asked her several pointed questions about Libby that indicate he may be nearing a decision on an indictment.
Here, then, are the main questions the paper's accounts raise for Libby, Miller and the New York Times.
What do we now know about Scooter Libby's involvement in the Plame case?
Even before Miller published her account, leaks from Fitzgerald's investigation indicated that Libby, like Karl Rove, took part in an effort to discredit Joseph Wilson. Miller's account underscores this fact: Both before and after Wilson
went public with what he'd really seen in Africa (i.e., no sign that Saddam Hussein was looking for nuclear weapons there), Libby was telling reporters not to trust the former diplomat, and was trying to insulate Cheney and the White House from Wilson's damaging report.
In three interviews Miller conducted with Libby -- one before Wilson published his Op-Ed criticizing the administration, and two afterward -- Libby insisted that Wilson's trip was arranged by the CIA, not Bush or Cheney, who he said had no idea what Wilson had found in Africa. Over the course of the three meetings, Libby dished increasingly more dirt on Wilson and his wife: He initially told Miller that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and then later revealed that she worked at WINPAC, a CIA unit that dealt with weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control.
It's unclear if Libby mentioned Plame's undercover status during these meetings, but Miller says she assumed that Plame was not undercover. It's also not clear if Libby told Miller Plame's name. The names "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" appear in Miller's notebooks, but Miller says Libby did not provide them and, incredibly, she says she can't remember who did.
So is Miller exonerating Libby by insisting he didn't name Plame?
Not really; indeed, it's actually of little importance whether Libby ever uttered the words "Valerie Plame" in his chats with Miller. By pointing out that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, Libby was clearly identifying Plame even if he wasn't naming her. And identifying an undercover operative to a reporter may constitute a violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the law that many observers have long presumed the prosecutor is focusing on.
So is Scooter headed for the slammer?
We don't know. To violate the Identities Protection Act, a government official would have to be shown to have disclosed the identity of an agent that he knew was undercover. At the moment, that's the crucial bit of information missing from the public realm: Does Fitzgerald have any evidence showing that Libby knew Plame was undercover at the time he discussed her identity with Miller?
If Libby did not know that Plame was undercover, does he get off scot-free?
Not necessarily, because the prosecutor may be considering other possible violations.
One theory is that Fitzgerald is looking to charge someone in the Bush administration with breaking espionage law. Espionage law prohibits government officials or private citizens who hold security clearances from delivering classified information to people who do not hold security clearances. It has been previously reported that Libby and other Bush administration officials may have first learned of Wilson's trip from a top-secret State Department memo that had been floating around the White House that summer; the memo identified Wilson's wife in a paragraph marked "snf," meaning "Secret No Foreign," which specified that the information was secret and not to be shared with foreigners.
In other words, even if Libby didn't know that Valerie Plame was undercover, her identity, according to that memo, was top-secret information; Libby may have been breaking espionage law, then, by disclosing Plame's identity to a reporter.
Miller's account suggests that Fitzgerald is looking into this possibility. Fitzgerald asked Miller if she was cleared to receive classified information; she said that although she had once been granted such clearances -- when she reported on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- she was not sure if she still did. Now, the fact that she even had such a security clearance appears rather bizarre and may prove to be of great consequence. Bill Lynch, a veteran CBS correspondent,
wrote in to Jim Romenesko's media news site and called Miller's security clearance "as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists and the New York Times (if it knew) should never have allowed her to become so compromised." And Ivo Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Clinton National Security Council staffer, pointed out here that "one of the most important obligations of a person receiving security clearances is not to reveal that information at any time, while one of the most important obligations of a reporter is precisely to reveal information the public has a need and right to know." He also wondered if this would be the key to Libby's avoiding any indictment.
If Miller does not enjoy such clearances, however, Libby may well have been breaking the law by discussing Plame with her.
So is that it? Is there more wrong that Libby may have done?
Oh yes. Observers have long suspected that Fitzgerald is also working on an obstruction of justice charge in this case -- meaning that he's looking to charge people who lied to investigators or in any other way attempted to block the inquiry.
Miller's account of her dealings with Libby suggests some basis for believing Libby may have been attempting to obstruct the investigation. For instance, Miller's lawyers say that when they first asked Libby's attorneys to release Miller from the confidentiality agreement she'd made with him, they said yes, but added that Libby had already testified that he had not disclosed Plame's identity to Miller. When Miller's attorneys refused to promise that she would exonerate Libby if she testified, Libby's side would say, "Don't go there, or, we don't want you there," according to Miller. This caused Miller to decide "not to testify in part because she thought that Mr. Libby's lawyer might be signaling to keep her quiet unless she would exonerate his client."
In a letter he sent to Miller releasing her from the confidentiality agreement, Libby wrote: "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me." Miller told Fitzgerald that she interpreted this passage as an attempt to influence her testimony: She wrote that the letter "might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job."
OK, so that's what's damaging to Libby in this account. What do these articles say about Judy Miller?
Well, first, to the relief of many at the New York Times, these accounts exonerate Miller of the most fevered speculation about her role in this case -- the idea that she was the original source of Plame's name, and that she'd passed that information on to the administration through Libby.
According to Miller, the prosecutor told the grand jury that she was only a witness -- and not a subject or target -- of the inquiry; this suggests that he isn't looking to prosecute Miller for violating any law.
Beyond that, though, Miller's actions in this case look quite unsavory.
Can you explain what you mean? What did Judy Miller do here that was so wrong?
She protected -- and, indeed, still looks to be protecting -- people she knew were trying to discredit Wilson, even though they were possibly breaking the law, and even though she seems to have had no legal or ethical basis for doing so.
But doesn't Miller insist she was only upholding press freedoms in her willingness to go to jail to avoid testifying?
Yes. And there have been many valiant
defenses of her stance.
But the record now indicates that for more than a year -- from August 2004, when she was first subpoenaed in the case, until Sept. 29, 2005, when she was released from jail -- she made only minimal efforts to convince Libby to free her from her agreement with him, even though, in the end, he appeared to have been willing to do so all along. In that time, she kept information from her bosses at the Times -- who say they let her lead the paper's handling of the affair -- as well as from the special prosecutor and, most important, from her readers. And she's still keeping information from her readers.
What do you mean? Didn't she tell all in these accounts?
No. As the Times report makes clear, Miller stonewalled the reporting team working on this case. Or, as the paper put it, "Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes." And that's despite the fact that on Wednesday Judge Thomas Hogan lifted his contempt order, and Miller appears to be in no legal jeopardy in the case.
One Times staffer who spoke to Salon said her relative lack of cooperation with her colleagues is likely to continue to rankle the newsroom, even now that the story has been told. There doesn't seem to be any sound journalistic reason for her selective silence; as Jay Rosen, the NYU journalism professor and blogger
writes, "What principle of confidentiality extends to 'interactions with editors?'"
Then there is the unbelievable fact that Miller cannot recall the most key detail in this incident, the source for Plame's name. Discussions with some at the Times indicated that this would be the hardest pill to swallow for people there: Either Miller is lying, they said, or she's sloppy to the point of ineffectiveness in her reporting. Neither scenario speaks for her continued employment as a star reporter.
So should Miller be fired? Will she be?
In its report on Miller, the paper suggested that Miller would return to the newsroom after taking a short break, but two staffers who spoke to Salon doubted that Miller would ever come back. Jay Rosen agreed, telling Salon: "I can't imagine she's still there in a month or even in a couple of weeks. We don't know how that's going to end, but I don't suspect she'll ever write another piece for the New York Times."
If she is fired, Rosen and others see two immediate causes for termination. One, she appears to have lied to Philip Taubman, the Times Washington bureau chief, when he asked her in the fall of 2003 whether any administration officials had disclosed Plame's identity to her. Miller said no -- even though Libby had discussed Plame's identity with her.
Second, Rosen notes, Miller agreed to identify Libby in her reporting as a "former Hill staffer" only because he wanted to mislead the public into thinking that the White House was not attacking Wilson. Miller's agreement violates the Times' current
policy on confidential sources, which states: "It should go without saying that The Times is truthful. We do not dissemble about our sources." (This policy was adopted after Miller's interview with Libby, but its basic premise -- don't lie about sources -- was in effect in the summer of 2003.)
"If I were going to sum up the sordidness of Judy Miller in one detail," says Rosen, "it would be this incident. If you look at that anecdote carefully, you have to ask yourself, How far away from her mind are the readers? The readers aren't even in her universe. She's so far gone into this world of secrets and hidden information that representing readers is only a technicality to her."
But if Judy Miller was so sordid, why did the Times go to bat for her?
Because they didn't know, and didn't ask about, all the sordid details. As the Times account makes clear, bosses at the paper -- publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Bill Keller -- did not press Miller for her full story. They let her, in the words of Sulzberger, drive the car.
There is likely to be a newsroom uproar about this arrangement, some at the paper said. Why was this reporter -- whose WMD reporting should have warned bosses at the paper about her judgment -- allowed to lead the New York Times in a fight with the government without anyone having reviewed all of her dealings and deal making with Libby, and everything in her notes?
Some at the paper suggest that this was all about Miller. As a journalist whose reporting on terrorism at the paper had been praised (and, along with a team of Times reporters, awarded a Pulitzer), she was seen by the hierarchy as someone to trust and protect. But the Times' odd stance in this case -- its decision to fight the government blind, without even reading Miller's notes -- also had to do with its absolutist ideology on confidential sources, Rosen says. "Part of the big principled fight they were engaged in demanded that they not ask Miller too much about her sources, just as they don't want the prosecutor to ask about her sources," he says. In this case, though, fighting the principle without knowing the facts led the paper astray. It was a failure, says Rosen (as well as some at the paper), of management.
But if managers failed, will they be punished?
Staffers at the paper tamped down any suggestion that Keller's job is now in trouble, as was that of his predecessor, Howell Raines, after the Jayson Blair scandal broke. Raines was a tremendously polarizing figure in the newsroom, and the Blair affair provided a convenient opportunity for the staff to revolt against his leadership. Keller, meanwhile, is generally well liked and respected, and few hold him responsible for this debacle.
The job of the publisher is another story. The Times account indicates that Sulzberger was most determined to fight on Miller's behalf both in the courtroom and on the paper's editorial page, yet at the same time was ignorant of key details in Miller's reporting on the case. (He only learned last Thursday, for instance, from the Times' own reporters, of the "Valerie Flame" note tucked in Miller's "lost" notebook.)
None of the staffers who spoke to Salon suggested that Sulzberger should be replaced. And in any case, that decision would not be up to anyone in the newsroom -- the Times is a public company, and ultimately Wall Street, the Times' board of directors and the Sulzberger family, which controls the company, will have the final say over his job.
But beyond personnel, what does the story do to the long-term reputation of the paper?
It's unclear. Obviously it doesn't help. But at the moment, as some staffers at the paper said, much of the outcome of this case depends on the larger outcome of the leak inquiry. If it results in indictments that stick, Miller won't be seen as an obstruction to the prosecution, and the Times may therefore make it out OK. On the other hand, if Fitzgerald does not indict Bush administration officials, the Times may be blamed.
Yet observers outside the newspaper were less sanguine. Greg Mitchell, who edits Editor & Publisher, writes, "Miller did far more damage to her newspaper than did Jayson Blair, and that's not even counting her WMD reporting, which hurt and embarrassed the paper in other ways."
Jay Rosen concurs. "There's no question," he says, "this is bigger than Jayson Blair." The paper will be assessing how much bigger in the days and weeks to come.

Cheney May Be Entangled in CIA Leak Investigation

From Bloomberg:

Cheney May Be Entangled in CIA Leak Investigation (Correct)
(Corrects third paragraph to delete reference to former White House aide Jim Wilkinson; corrects 18th paragraph to say Fitzgerald reports to Justice Department.)
By Richard Keil

Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A special counsel is focusing on whether Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in leaking a covert CIA agent's name, according to people familiar with the probe that already threatens top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis Libby.
The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, has questioned current and former officials of President George W. Bush's administration about whether Cheney was involved in an effort to discredit the agent's husband, Iraq war critic and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, according to the people.
Fitzgerald has questioned Cheney's communications adviser Catherine Martin and former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise about the vice president's knowledge of the anti-Wilson campaign and his dealings on it with Libby, his chief of staff, the people said. The information came from multiple sources, who requested anonymity because of the secrecy and political sensitivity of the investigation.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has now testified twice before a federal grand jury probing the case after spending 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Fitzgerald, wrote in yesterday's New York Times that Fitzgerald asked her whether the vice president ``had known what his chief aide,'' Libby, ``was doing and saying'' regarding Wilson, a critic of the war in Iraq.
Potential `Big Case'
Fitzgerald has told lawyers involved in the case that he hopes to conclude soon -- the grand jury's term expires Oct. 28, although it could be extended -- and there is a growing sense among knowledgeable observers that the outcome will involve serious criminal charges. ``Fitzgerald is putting together a big case,'' Washington attorney Robert Bennett, who represents Miller, said on the ABC-TV program ``This Week'' yesterday.
The charges could range from a broad conspiracy case to more narrowly drawn indictments for obstruction of justice or perjury, according to lawyers involved in the case. Charges are considered less likely on the law that initially triggered Fitzgerald's probe, which makes it illegal to deliberately unmask an undercover intelligence agent, because of the difficulty in meeting that statute's exacting standards for prosecution.
Lea Anne McBride, a Cheney spokesman, declined to comment yesterday on whether the vice president, 64, has been contacted by Fitzgerald about his status in the case, except to say: ``This is an ongoing investigation, and we are fully cooperating.'' Randall Samborn, a Fitzgerald spokesman, declined to comment. Calls to Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, and Joseph Tate, Libby's lawyer, weren't returned.
There's no indication Fitzgerald is considering criminal charges against the vice president, who gave unsworn testimony to investigators last year. One option for Fitzgerald is to outline his findings about Cheney's role if he files a final report on the investigation.
Fitzgerald, 45, has also questioned administration officials about any knowledge Bush may have had of the campaign against Wilson. Yet most administration observers have noted that on Iraq, as with most matters, it's Cheney who has played the more hands-on role.
``Anything dealing with intelligence, no matter how big or how small, Cheney is involved in it,'' Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said in an interview. ``This is his portfolio, and he guards it very well.''
Pursuit of Evidence
One lawyer intimately involved in the case, who like the others demanded anonymity, said one reason Fitzgerald was willing to send Miller to jail to compel testimony was because he was pursuing evidence the vice president may have been aware of the specifics of the anti-Wilson strategy.
And both U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan and an appellate-court panel -- including David Tatel, a First Amendment advocate -- said they ruled in Fitzgerald's favor because of the gravity of the case.
Katy Harriger, a political scientist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has written extensively about special-counsel investigations, said the pace and trajectory of Fitzgerald's probe suggests it will end with the indictment of Rove, Libby or both.
Harriger said she anticipates indictments in part because of the special prosecutor's willingness to jail Miller. ``That's not something you do unless you really have something more going on that isn't obvious to the public,'' she said.
Avenues of Investigation
Larry Barcella, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the recent activity in the case suggests criminal charges are likely, although not in connection with the 1982 law making it illegal to disclose a covert agent's identity.
A more likely focus is possible ``false statements, conspiracy or obstruction of justice,'' said Barcella, now a defense lawyer for the Washington-based law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. ``It's obviously not good that Rove and Libby have spent so much time before the grand jury.''
To make a case against Cheney as part of a conspiracy indictment, Fitzgerald would have to show the vice president was an active participant in a decision to smear Wilson, Barcella said. ``It's a case most easily made if you can prove a person knowingly entered into an agreement to do something illegal,'' he said. ``Beyond that, it can be tricky.''
Fitzgerald's status differs in one potentially important respect from the independent counsels who investigated alleged wrongdoing during earlier administrations. They reported to a panel of appellate judges, while Fitzgerald reports to the Justice Department.
Given the prospect of both protracted criminal cases and then civil lawsuits, it now seems possible the issue will bedevil the final years of Bush's presidency, much as the Iran-contra affair burdened President Ronald Reagan's second term and the Monica Lewinsky scandal plagued President Bill Clinton's.
No Leaks
While there have been virtually no leaks out of Fitzgerald's office, and even the subjects of his investigation are unsure about his intentions, White House officials and Bush supporters are fearful that recent developments spell legal jeopardy for Rove, the central strategist behind Bush's political campaigns and much of his presidency, and Libby, a key architect of the Iraq war strategy.
When the investigation began, White House officials asserted that neither Rove nor Libby played any role in the outing of Plame, and both aides told Fitzgerald that they learned of her identity from journalists.
Reporter's Account
In her Times account, Miller said she told Fitzgerald and the grand jury that Libby, 55, raised the subject of Wilson's wife during a meeting with Miller on June 23, 2003. That was before Wilson, 55, went public in a Times op-ed piece with his accusation that Bush and his aides had ``twisted'' intelligence findings to justify invading Iraq, although administration officials knew he was privately critical.
While Miller didn't say Libby had identified Plame as a covert agent, her account calls into question Libby's assertion that he first learned of Plame's identity from reporters.
Miller, 57, said she went to jail rather than testify because, unlike other reporters, she didn't feel Libby had given her specific and voluntary permission to speak about their confidential conversations. She relented when Libby contacted her by telephone and letter last month, saying he had always expected her to testify.
Those communications with Miller may pose legal problems for Libby. His letter to her stated that ``the public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me.''
Miller wrote in her Times article that Fitzgerald asked her to read that portion of the letter aloud to the grand jurors and asked for her reaction to Libby's words. She said that part of the letter had ``surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job.''
Bennett, Miller's attorney, yesterday called that part of Libby's letter ``a very stupid thing to do.'' Other lawyers suggested it could become part of any obstruction-of-justice charge Fitzgerald might bring.
Rove's testimony also has been contradicted by others, such as Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. He said his July 2003 conversation with the White House aide focused more on Wilson and his wife than Rove had testified, while adding Rove had not identified her by name. There is also at least one discrepancy between Rove's version and that of columnist Robert Novak, who first identified Plame as a Central Intelligence Agency operative in July 2003, according to persons familiar with their accounts.
Return for Testimony
Rove, 54, returned to the grand jury for a fourth time on Oct. 14 and testified for more than four hours. His lawyer, Luskin, who has spoken frequently with reporters, has gone from public optimism that his client faces little legal danger to cautiously noting only that Fitzgerald hasn't told them Rove is a ``target.''
Bush refused to comment when asked by a reporter today whether he would expect a member of his administration to resign or take leave if indicted.
``There's a serious investigation,'' Bush said. ``I'm not going to pre-judge the outcome.''
Wilson was dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports, since discredited, that Saddam Hussein's regime was trying to buy uranium in Niger as part of a nuclear- weapons program. After Bush cited similar reports in his Jan. 28, 2003, State of the Union speech and the U.S. invaded Iraq in March of that year, Wilson began telling some journalists anonymously that the claim was questionable.
Reacting to Wilson
That prompted behind-the-scenes administration attempts to discredit Wilson. In his June 2003 meeting with Miller, Libby told her, in the context of a conversation critical of the CIA, that Wilson's wife worked for the spy agency, according to an account published in the Times yesterday.
Wilson went public with his criticism on July 6, 2003. In his Times piece, he concluded: ``Some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.''
Over the next week, Libby and Rove talked to reporters, on the condition they not be identified, about Wilson's article and the fact that his CIA-employed wife may have had a role in giving him the Niger assignment.
Plame's identity was first published by Novak on July 14. He cited ``two senior administration officials'' as the sources of the information that Plame, 42, suggested Wilson for the Niger trip. Novak hasn't commented publicly on those sources.
Miller never wrote a story about Wilson or his wife -- although in one of her notebooks, dated July 8, 2003, a notation appears for ``Valerie Flame.''
One of the subplots is the role played by the New York Times. In addition to Miller's personal account, the Times yesterday published a separate 5,800-word piece that criticized both Miller and the way the newspaper handled the story.
The article reported the paper's publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and its executive editor, Bill Keller, unequivocally supported their reporter in her legal battle although ``they knew few details about Ms. Miller's conversations with her confidential source,'' and ``did not review'' her notes.
Miller, who wrote many influential pre-war war stories about Hussein's purported weapons of mass destruction that the Times later acknowledged were flawed, told the grand jury she recommended in 2003 that the newspaper pursue the Plame story. Jill Abramson, the newspaper's managing editor, said Miller never made any such recommendation.
In an interview yesterday, Wilson said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.
If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed -- and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath -- while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then- President Bill Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Richard Keil in Washington at dkeil@bloomberg.net

Bush refuses to release health fund for families

From Boston Globe:

A fund for families
October 17, 2005

FOR FOUR straight years, President Bush has refused to release $34 million that Congress approves annually for the United Nations Population Fund, which supports the UN's reproductive health work in the world's poorest countries. Instead, ordinary Americans have donated $2.7 million to a grass-roots effort called the 34 Million Friends campaign. The idea is for 34 million individuals to donate a dollar each to save the lives and health of women and children overseas. The donations are a direct rebuke to Bush's policies that would shame a more responsible administration.
The money is needed to fully engage the promise of equality for women in the developing world. The UN program funds efforts to educate adolescents in Africa on the importance of HIV testing; help girls in Nicaragua attend secondary school; and train birth attendants in Afghanistan, a country with one of the world's highest maternal death rates. The canard that the fund is used for abortions or coercive family planning in China was thoroughly debunked by Bush's own State Department, which sent a fact-finding team to evaluate the UN's programs in 2002.
The Bush administration apparently thinks blocking the funds is an easy way to assuage ideological groups whose real problem is with family planning policies that promote the empowerment of women. But failing to invest in smaller, healthier families is shortsighted in the extreme. Every dollar spent yields incalculable dividends not just in freedom from hunger and want but in the sustainable use of natural resources and even in political stability and reduced world conflict.
Last week the Population Fund, known as UNFPA, released its annual world population report. It links sustainable development to the Millennium Goals reaffirmed by world leaders, including Bush, at a UN summit in New York in September. The report argues what should be obvious: In a world with 3 billion females, the goals of eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, and reversing the global AIDS epidemic cannot be met unless women's access to education, economic opportunity, and reproductive health are also met. As UNFPA's director, Thoraya Obaid, said in a phone interview: ''To make poverty history, you have to make gender discrimination history as well."
Obaid says the 34 Million Friends donations are now being spent on a campaign to help women with obstetric fistula, a debilitating side effect of unsafe childbirth that is easily repaired but a taboo subject in many traditional societies. These donors are true citizens of the world. But there is no substitute for sustained government support from a rich country with a claim to world leadership. Global disease, poverty, and hunger cannot be cured by volunteers alone.

Crony in charge of protecting us from killer flu

Bush's chronic cronyism is finally getting attention. Here's another to add to the list. (Simonson pictured on right)

From RecordOnline:

Remember that time – when was it? – oh, a few weeks ago – that a hurricane wiped out New Orleans? And remember how the feds – uhh – made a disaster out of the disaster? And remember how the guy in charge of FEMA – Crony Brown – wasn't qualified? Remember how Bush gave him the job because he was a pal of a pal – or maybe they met at a church pot-luck supper one time? So Bush figured that a guy who used to run horse races would be real good at running disasters? Well, I'm not going to walk you down Memory Lane here – Memory Lane is still under water, anyway – but I wanted to refresh your memory about that before I tell you about another crony. Another one, that is, besides Harriet Miers. I'm sure you know by now that health experts are predicting a worldwide killer flu outbreak. Could be next week. Could be next year. This is the avian flu we're talking about. This flu is the stuff that Stephen King books are made of. It will make Katrina look like a day at the beach. It's expected that millions worldwide will die, including a few million Americans. It's a small world, after all. Killer viruses get around. So. You know this. I know this. There's even some evidence that President Bush knows this. After all, two weeks ago he said the military should be used to quarantine sick people when this flu hits. (Note to Bush: Two things. Quarantines are handled by state and local officials. Also, WHAT military? We have no soldiers to spare, remember?) But here's the thing. Bush's point man in charge of making sure America is ready for the killer flu is – uhh – how do you say it? – oh, I know – a CRONY. Yes! Crony Simonson is his name. Actually, it's Stewart Simonson. And he's the Michael Brown of the killer flu. His actual title is Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services. You, as an American, might ask this: Just how is Stewart Simonson qualified to protect us when the killer flu hits? Is he a doctor, perhaps? Or a public health expert? Well, not exactly. Actually, he's a lawyer. Really! Before he was put in charge of the nation's medical emergencies, he was a lawyer for Amtrak. Where better to prepare oneself to manage a major disease pandemic than at a train company? It was at Amtrak that Simonson became a crony. He was pals with Amtrack chief Tommy Thompson, who was pals with George Bush. So naturally George Bush appointed a train exec to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. And naturally Thompson brought his pal Simonson along. And even though Thompson isn't at HHS any longer, Simonson still is – and he's in charge of the killer flu. I don't know. Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Maybe being a choo choo train lawyer is all the experience needed to deal with the coming plague. In fact, maybe the killer flu will be kind of like – uhh – I know! – like an express train! It will, after all, barrel through the country like a high-speed locomotive. Who better than a lawyer to protect those in its path. Look! It's a bird, it's a train, it's Super Crony! Beth Quinn's column appears on Monday. Talk to her at 346-3147 or at bquinn@th-record.com.

Miers' troubles with tax liens

I don't know what relevance this story has, but it is ironic that the City Council member had trouble complying with city laws.

From SF Gate:

Supreme Court pick has had 10 placed on overgrown property she controls in Dallas

The year Harriet Miers began work as a senior presidential aide in the White House, the city of Dallas slapped three liens in three months on a property she controls in a low-income minority Dallas neighborhood, records show.
The city placed the liens in 2001 to force her to reimburse it for clearing the vacant lot of tall grass, weeds and debris after Miers failed to have the work done herself, as required by city law, and after she did not respond to city notices to maintain the property.

It was not the first time the city had to take action. Records show that since Miers assumed power of attorney for her ailing mother in 1995, the city has issued seven other liens on vacant lots that Miers controls in the same neighborhood around Tipton Park.

All 10 liens, totaling less than $2,000, have been paid, a city spokesman said.

But the failure of Miers, a former Dallas City Council member, to comply with city law, and her slow response in reimbursing the city, run counter to her image as a meticulous, detail-oriented attorney who is always well prepared.

That image is undergoing scrutiny now that President Bush has nominated Miers, his former personal attorney, to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Bush's selection of Miers has drawn harsh criticism by many activists on the right, who question her conservative credentials and her legal qualifications to be on the high court.

The White House appeared to be caught off guard by questions about the liens and the properties, initially unaware of Miers' responsibility for them.

After looking into the issue, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Saturday that Miers had control of the properties, which technically are owned by her mother, Sally, who is in a skilled nursing facility.

"The issues were resolved to the city's satisfaction," Perino said. "She has great respect for the city and its process. ... For the last several years, they have had a contractor handling the maintenance."

Miers' financial-disclosure filings list ownership of only two properties, her home in a fashionable north Dallas neighborhood and a vacant lot in the Tipton Park neighborhood.

But records show Miers has been the attorney of record for her mother's properties since 1973 and has held power of attorney for her mother since 1995.

The undeveloped housing lots are among the remnants of the real estate business that her father, Harris Miers, built in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s in the black and Latino neighborhoods around Tipton Park, where more than half of all residents now live in poverty.

In anticipation of a postwar real estate boom, Harris Miers acquired many of the lots on contract. He bought in the hardscrabble area even before it was a part of Dallas, in the belief that the city would grow west, toward Fort Worth. But it didn't -- it grew north.

Harris Miers suffered a debilitating stroke in 1963, and his wife served as his guardian and managed and sold properties to keep the family going. When he died in 1973, he left 36 properties -- nearly all of them around Tipton Park -- worth $271,500 to his wife, court records show.

Harris Miers' stroke had a deep impact on his daughter, forcing her to become a scholarship student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and influencing her career choice as an attorney, because lawyers helped the family so much.

But the vacant lots he left behind also have created problems for her.

In 1989, as Harriet Miers was preparing to run for Dallas City Council, the city placed a lien on a property she owned in near Tipton Park. She paid off the lien and later sold the property.

In 1990, as a City Council member, Miers was barred from voting on a $118 million public housing desegregation lawsuit, because the city attorney said she had a conflict of interest: She and her mother owned several lots near a housing development that would benefit from the proposed settlement.

Since 1995, the city has placed liens on three of Miers' properties, city and county records show. The liens have been paid, but the city has no record of the dates, amounts, who paid them or how they did it, said Celso Martinez, a city spokesman.

City records show that the city's costs usually were reimbursed within months of the liens being put on the lots. But one 1997 lien was not paid off until 2002, two months after the city turned over the debt to a collection agency.
Lewis Simpson, 64, who lives nearby, said he could not recall anyone cutting the grass before this year. Now, he said, "a guy comes out about every two weeks with a tractor. He started coming out about six months ago."

Lifelong west Dallas resident and former community activist Luis Sepulveda, now a justice of the peace, said he was surprised to hear that Miers had not taken care of her properties.

"I'm forced to do that. So is she," he said. "If it's not done, shame on her."

The impact could extend beyond that Dallas neighborhood.

"The Bush administration has been trying to sell Miers as an extremely competent religious conservative," said Jeffrey Segal, a Supreme Court expert at Stony Brook University in New York.

"Nobody is buying the religious conservative argument," he said, "so if the super-competent argument doesn't hold, they don't have anything to justify the nomination."