As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, July 24, 2004

What goes around comes around

Days after the Sandy Berger issue failed to derail the Democratic momentum heading into the convention, another prominent Washington figure is being implicated in an investigation about sensitive national security documents. But you probably won't hear as much about this one, because he's a Republican:

By Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, NBC News
WASHINGTON - Information about a criminal investigation of possible intelligence leaks by Sen. Richard Shelby was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday, senior law enforcement and intelligence officials have told NBC News. The information is related to a leak of intercepted al-Qaida communications just prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The investigation centers on the leak of highly classified intelligence related to al-Qaida communications in June 2002, primarily to CNN.

CNN reported on June 20 that in one communication intercepted by the National Security Agency on Sept. 10, 2001, an individual was overheard saying, "The match begins tomorrow" while in another that same day, a second person said, "Tomorrow is zero hour." In both, the speakers were in Afghanistan and were speaking to individuals in Saudi Arabia. The intercept was not found until Sept. 12, 2001.

“Leaking the exact language would presumably tell the two ends of the conversation not to use that channel again since it had been compromised,” one senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC News.

I see far more wrong with this as I do with Berger inadvertently taking copies of documents from the National Archives. In this case, Shelby is outing a source of our intelligence; in the other, Berger's cramming for a hearing and wants to give good answers, compromising nothing. But that's not the point. The point is that it's the GOP that has tried to make an issue out of the Berger situation, screaming about a cover-up, and criminal negligence and the like. Funny, though, Shelby's alibi sounds strangely familiar:

"Of course, I have no knowledge as to the progress of the investigation and have had no contact with investigation officials for well over a year," Shelby said in that statement. " ... At no time during my career as a United States Senator and, more particularly, at no time during my service as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have I ever knowingly compromised classified information. To my knowledge, the same can be said about my staff. We have provided the investigation with our full cooperation in the past, and we will continue to do so."

That reads almost exactly like Berger's statement, which of course was derided by the right, and met with cries of "Sandy Berger must own up to the American people." Well, then Richard Shelby must as well. Once again, we see the GOP unable to deal with in their own backyard what they so knowingly criticize in others.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Tom Kean steals from Jon Stewart

"Because of the reforms after September 11, America is safer, but it is not safe enough."

-Thomas Kean, 9/11 Commission Director, July 22, 2004

"Be afraid enough to not vote for John Kerry, but not too afraid not to vote for President Bush."

-Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, July 8, 2004


Quick thoughts on the 9/11 report

This graf sticks out like a sore thumb:

Secretary Powell recalled that Wolfowitz--not Rumsfeld--argued that Iraq
was ultimately the source of the terrorist problem and should therefore be
attacked. Powell said that Wolfowitz was not able to justify his belief that Iraq
was behind 9/11. "Paul was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that
had to be dealt with," Powell told us."And he saw this as one way of using this
event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem."

There you have it. "Using this event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem."

This one also grabbed me:

At the September 17 NSC meeting, there was some further discussion of
"phase two" of the war on terrorism. President Bush ordered the Defense
Department to be ready to deal with Iraq if Baghdad acted against U.S. interests,
with plans to include possibly occupying Iraqi oil fields.

So within 6 days of 9/11, Bush was already looking ahead to Phase two. And notice the mention of Iraqi oil fields, fairly prominently.

And, apparently, Wolfowitz also wouldn't shut up about Iraq:

Within the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz continued to press the
case for dealing with Iraq.Writing to Rumsfeld on September 17 in a memo
headlined "Preventing More Events,"he argued that if there was even a 10 percent
chance that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack, maximum pri-
ority should be placed on eliminating that threat.Wolfowitz contended that
the odds were "far more" than 1 in 10, citing Saddam's praise for the attack...

Right. So now the standard of proof includes "praising the attack." So if some militant in a mosque in Brooklyn said "Yay!" I guess he was involved too.

You can find the full report if you wish at Patridiot's site. I'll post more when I read it more.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

What a difference a day makes

From Tuesday...

The House ethics committee could decide soon whether to dig deeper into a complaint that Majority Leader Tom DeLay misused his office for partisan Republican activities.

Two allegations directly involve use of DeLay's congressional office. One accuses him of soliciting corporate contributions in return for assistance on legislation. A second allegation contends he improperly used his staff to contact U.S. aviation authorities and ask them to track down Texas Democratic legislators who had fled the state trying to thwart a DeLay-backed redistricting plan.

The third subject accuses DeLay of using his political action committees to distribute money from corporations to Texas legislative candidates, in violation of state law.

DeLay told reporters Tuesday that "filing frivolous ethics complaints does nothing but undermine the ethics process in this House and undermine this great institution."

-AP, July 20, 2004

To Wednesday...

Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, invoked Watergate when he described Berger's actions as "just a third-rate burglary."

-The New York Times, July 21, 2004


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Sandy Berger - here we go...

That rumbling sound you hear is the Republican noise machine buzzing about this story that Clinton NSA Sandy Berger removed classified documents (or copies of documents, depending on what story you read) and notes from the National Archives related to counter-terrorism efforts during the foiled 2000 millennium plot. Once again, in the breaking of a scandal, we learn what the rules are in America that we would previously not know:

Berger's home and office were searched earlier this year by FBI agents armed with warrants after the former Clinton adviser voluntarily returned some sensitive documents to the National Archives and admitted he also removed handwritten notes he had made while reviewing the sensitive documents.

Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

``I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced,'' Berger said in a statement to the AP.

So you can't take your own notes from the National Archives on documents you review? Never knew that the culture of secrecy was that deep. Don't know if it's right or wrong, I just didn't know that. So, the questions begin. Is Sandy Berger a spy? Does he have something to hide? Or did he just inadvertently put something in his briefcase? (CNN reported some unsourced apocryphal story about him putting documents in his shoes; take that for what you will.)

Well, it doesn't really matter what the intent was, because over on the right all you're going to hear is the shrill shouts of "COVER-UP! SCANDAL! DEMOCRAT! KERRY!" (No report on Berger gets reported without the "Mr. Berger is an informal advisor to the Kerry campaign" line) House Speaker Dennis Hastert just released a press brief on the Berger case that predictably smeared with lines like "Was this a bungled attempt to rewrite history... Mr. Berger has some explaining to do" and the like. I'm sure the graphics coordinator at Fox News is currently figuring out what font the words "BERGER" and "DOUBLE AGENT" would look best in. And Instapundit (I'll link to it, but please, don't go) is leading the right-wing blog charge. So really this is beyond whether what Berger did is right or wrong (and by the way, what he did WAS wrong, IMO, and if it's convictable, he should go to jail). It's about perception now. And the fact that this story has been leaked just days before the 9/11 Commission releases their report and recommendations is highly suspect.

I hope this investigation continues with the same speed as the Valerie Plame investigation (which recently celebrated its first anniversary).


Monday, July 19, 2004

Um, good news out of Sudan, I think

Sudanese court orders convicts' hands, feet cut off

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — A special court set up by the Sudanese government to end atrocities in the western Darfur region sentenced 10 Arab militiamen Monday to six years in prison and ordered each have a hand and a foot amputated for attacking and robbing villagers...

Under Islamic law followed by the Sudanese government, someone repeatedly convicted of being a thief is punished by cutting off the person's left hand and right foot. If the thief steals again, the right hand and left foot are amputated.

This seems like a great way to punish human rights violators. Not all governments are alike, sure, but that doesn't mean I have to respect their decisions. On the heels of Iyad Allawi's alleged personal executions of six insurgents in Baghdad, now picked up by Newsweek, these stories bring up the very real question of how you balance crackdowns on crime and murder with respect for humans as humans. I'm sure that, if the Allawi thing goes more public in the US, you'll hear the moral relativists from the right saying "Look who he killed, insurgents, and those people deserved it" and the like. I just can't subscribe to that. Murder is murder, and furthermore I don't see how killing insurgent prisoners in cold blood acts as a deterrent, especially in the context of martyrdom. It's getting so that all the moral high ground in the world has been bulldozed, and we're all standing on the same plateau, killing each other and coming up with a good reason for it afterwards. Which ends up solving absolutely nothing.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Crazy Like Fox

I just got back from a screening Robert Greenwald's new documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," which premiered in a unique "house party" format in 3,000+ living rooms across the country. There were about 25 people at our screening at an apartment in Santa Monica. The film hits all the high points in showing the various techniques FNC uses to push its far-right agenda. I was happy to see some things (like the well-documented Bill O'Reilly exchange with Jeremy Glick, whose father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11), surprised that I forgot about others (like Brit Hume's ludicrous claim in August 2003 that “U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California, which is roughly the same geographical size.” His logic was that California has 6.6 murders a day, and U.S. troops have been incurring about 1.7 deaths a day. This of course neglects the fact that there are around 33.9 million more people in California than there are soldiers in Iraq), and actually left wanting for other things about the media in general (like the fake news reports the Bush Administration manufactured to promote their Medicare Bill, or the general state of shoddy reporting at the local level because of reduced budgets). But overall, Outfoxed was a good summary of what Fox News does, how they do it, and why.

It will be interesting over the next few days to gauge Fox's reaction to all of this, and to the recent release of confidential memos from FNC bureau chief John Moody, which clearly tell staff members how to spin their stories each day. Earlier last week, Fox issued a warning to rival news organizations that may hype the film, saying among other things that "If any news organizations decide to make this an anti-Fox News story, then all of their material becomes fodder immediately for possible out of context and biased documentaries." And who knows how to make biased documentaries better than Fox? It's telling that Fox's response to a documentary that portrays them as bullies is to bully other organizations into not reporting about the documentary.