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

Friday, July 15, 2005

Billmon Puts It In Focus

I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

Karl Rove, CNN Interview, August 31, 2004

Luskin said yesterday that Rove did not know Plame's name and was not actively trying to push the information into the public realm.

Washington Post, "Rove Told Reporter of Plame's Role But Didn't Name Her, Attorney Says", July 11, 2005

The lawyer, who has knowledge of the conversations between Rove and prosecutors, said President Bush's deputy chief of staff has told investigators that he first learned about the operative from a journalist and that he later learned her name from Novak.

Washington Post, "Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says", July 15, 2005


Rhymes with Puskin

These two strange, single-sourced, anonymous stories, in today's WaPo and NYT, both claiming that Karl Rove was actually told Valerie Plame's name by Robert Novak, were so oily that it was difficult to read them without them sliding away. Anyone wondering who this source was? Let's see, a source familiar with the case, who believes "that Mr. Rove was truthful in saying that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson's identity?" I'll give you three guesses who that source is.

(UPDATE: WaPo has now changed the story to admit their source was, in fact, Rove;s lawyer Robert Luskin; I don't think that was there in the edition I read last night.)

The claim is that Rove was the second source for Novak's original story; he confirmed Novak's question about Plame being a CIA agent by saying "I heard that." Someone's lying here. Rove said in the recent past he didn't know Plame's name when he talked to Matt Cooper; this conversation with Novak happened earlier. Also, Novak repeatedly claimed in the aftermath of the original leak in 2003 that "they gave it to me, I didn't have to dig it out." (The "it" referring to Plame) Now the story is that Rove merely confirmed it, that it was the other way around.

The New York Times and the Washington Post don't typically run the same story, using the same source, unless it was shopped to them. Luskin, I'm guessing, went to reporters and peddled this information in the hopes that it would help his client. For a guy in the midst of a federal grand jury case, he sure is being chatty. Then again, this is a guy that was once paid in gold bars for his services, so I'm not thinking he has a lot of modesty in him.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Blow Me Down

The Abu Ghraib "bad apples" story actually wasn't true!

Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.

Military investigators who briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday on the three-month probe, called the tactics "creative" and "aggressive" but said they did not cross the line into torture.

The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

It's not about the relative merits of these techniques (I don't think they give you anything in terms of helping you obtain intelligence) or whether or not they're humane or if they saved lives or if they make us look like Nazis or anything like that. The point is that the day the Abu Ghraib photos were released, every member of this Administration blamed it on low-level privates who were running a Wild West show on the night shift, a "few bad apples" who had nothing to do with Administration policy regarding torture. I never understood where they got the hoods from if that were the case, or the leashes, or the electrodes for detainees' nipples, or the waterboards, etc., etc.

But now we have more proof that these techniques were policy. It was blindingly clear to anyone who was paying attention, but I hope this wakes up a few more people.


Full O' Himself

On occasion I'll pop over to "Loofa" O'Reilly in the morning to see what he's doing. Today he was broadcasting live from Boston, that hub of cultural and academic and political liberalism, scourge to priests everywhere. And he was talking about the Rick Santorum situation (yesterday), and how he tried to get the Senator on the show to defend himself. "He won't come on because he's scared," O'Reilly intoned. "That's the biggest-- the biggest-- mistake I've seen any politician make in a long long time."

Yeah, Bill. Refusing to talk to you-- YOU!-- is the biggest mistake any politician can make. Everyone knows how you've deicmated France with your boycott (exports are up in the country since you started it), everyone knows that no politician dare snub Lord O'Reilly lest he be banished to the very depths of purgatory!

Incidentally, O'Reilly kind of agreed with Santorum-- though he wouldn't extend it to the Catholic sexual abuse scandal-- that the cultural attitudes of Boston naturally lead to a more permissive society. I wonder if he'll take any of the blame for that himself, you know, him being the author of the soft-core porn novella "Those Who Trespass", featuring such permissive passages as this:

Stripping off her bathing-suit, she walked into the huge shower. She pulled the lime green curtain across the entrance and then set the water for a tepid 75-degrees. The spray felt great against her skin as she ducked her head underneath the nozzle. Closing her eyes she concentrated on the tingling sensation of water flowing against her body. Suddenly another sensation entered, Ashley felt two large hands wrap themselves around her breasts and hot breathe on the back of her neck. She opened her eyes wide and giggled, "I thought you drowned out there snorkel man."

Tommy O'Malley was naked and at attention. "Drowning is not an option", he said, "unless of course you beg me to perform unnatural acts – right here in this shower."

Actually that's one of the tamer passages, comparatively.

Also, I wonder if we can ask Andrea Mackris about O'Reilly's views on our permissive society.


You Scratch My Back, I Won't Write About Your Affairs

Today's disclosure that my governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, received $8 million dollars from the publisher of Flex and Muscle & Fitness Magazines just two days before he was sworn into office, didn't raise a whole lot of eyebrows with me. I remembered the announcement that he would become both magazines' executive editor in early 2004. I wondered where the governor of the world's 5th-largest economy gets the time to do that, but state law allows elected officials to have outside jobs, and of course he should be paid for services rendered (though $8M is quite a bit for what is largely a figurehead PR role). That the deal is structured on ad revenue from nutritional supplements is a bit more troubling:

The contract pays Schwarzenegger 1% of the magazines' advertising revenue, much of which comes from makers of nutritional supplements. Last year, the governor vetoed legislation that would have imposed government regulations on the supplement industry.

But given Arnold's background, he would likely have vetoed that legislation whether he was cashing in on it or not. So to jump on him for profiting from his own legislation, while technically true, isn't as scandalous to me as others think. But then I read this nugget, buried in the article:

American Media, which also owns the National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star tabloids, made public the terms of Schwarzenegger's contract in a separate SEC filing Wednesday.

And then I remembered an op/ed by Laurence Lerner, the author of a forthcoming book on the governor (done with Schwarzenegger's cooperation). He connects the dots very nicely, even getting what amounts to an admission of guilt:

A little history: When Schwarzenegger first considered running against Gov. Gray Davis in 2002, he backed away after the National Enquirer ran a spate of articles on his sex life. One of the most sensational ran in April 2001 under the headline "Arnold's 7-Year Affair." It included photos of Schwarzenegger with a former television personality named Gigi Goyette, referred to by the tabloid as Schwarzenegger's "mistress." (Goyette told me that she had a once-yearly relationship with Schwarzenegger and denies that she was ever his mistress; Schwarzenegger declined to discuss Goyette with me on the record.)

The tabloid boasted in print that "Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated his plans to run for governor of California … because he didn't want even more scandals uncovered if he made a bid for public office!"

By the time he entered the 2003 recall election, the movie star had the tabloid problem solved.

The National Enquirer, the Globe and the Star are all owned by one company, American Media, headed by David Pecker. In July 2003, as Schwarzenegger was contemplating entering the recall election, he ushered Pecker into his massive office in Santa Monica, both participants have told me. The parameters of this get-together had been set by bodybuilding impresario Joe Weider, Schwarzenegger's longtime mentor. American Media had just purchased Weider's bodybuilding magazine empire, and Weider said he saw manifold benefits to both parties if the tabloids would stop doing articles about Schwarzenegger's past sex life.

Schwarzenegger says no deal was made that day.

But an interview with the governor for my book, "Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger," made it clear that no deal had to be made.

"There was no discussion about the National Enquirer," Schwarzenegger said. "I think it's common sense. Do you want to work with someone who you are attacking? You don't have to say anything. You don't have to be sleazy and make deals. It's human nature."

They call that a "gentleman's agreement." It keeps either side out of any legal culpability, while both sides achieve their ends. So what it amounts to is attaching Arnold's bankable name to the American Media empire (and, if elected, making sure their supplements get to market in California) in exchange for $8 million and backing off all the sex stories. I'd say both sides made out like bandits.

Obviously the upcoming special election will tell the tale, but it wouldn't surprise me now if Arnold didn't even run next year. Which is unbelievable given his popularity in 2003 and 2004. He'll find an excuse, of course: blaming the legislature, or saying "Maria wouldn't let me run again." But it's looking more and more like a one-and-done for the Terminator. And I don't think you'll hear any more about that Constitutional amendment allowing non-native citizens to run for President (which I'd support, by the way).


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Blame Boston

We apparently now know where Rick Santorum (R-Man on Dog) stands on the whole "heredity vs. environment" debate. It's environment by a mile. Not even the most pious of priests can control themselves in the lurid, seedy den of iniquity that is Boston, Massachusetts (or is it Taxachusetts?):

Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

You're blaming BOSTON for priests molesting young boys over a 40-year period? It's MIT and Harvard's fault? It's Aerosmith and Mission to Burma's fault? It's hot, sexy man-stud Michael Dukakis' fault?

This is coming from the party of self-reliance, remember. Those welfare queens have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps instead of blaming society. But the Church? They're simply too weak to succumb to the deep sexual allure of Beantown.

All the usual suspects (including the GOP governor of MA, Mitt Romney) are coming out of the woodwork to condemn this. It's a discredit to the state of my birth to have their senator be this batshit crazy, that he's blaming a city for sexual abuse rather than its practitioners.

I don't know how this bit of wingnuttery is going to help Santorum erase his 14-point deficit to Bob Casey Jr. in the 2006 Senate race. Or maybe he's just trying to beat Alan Keyes' record for the lowest vote percentage by a Republican Senate candidate.


Watch Them Wiggle

I gotta say, it's almost comical watching Republicans trying to cover for their leader Karl Rove this week. In trying to defend the indefensible act of putting politics above national security, they have pulled out some of the lamest excuses I've ever heard. From Ken Mehlman's "Karl didn't reveal her FULL NAME, he only said Joe Wilson's wife" (too pitiful to even rebut) to Fox News' Carl Cameron's "The President never technically said he would fire the leaker" (not in the soundbite they used, but in quite a few others), it's been a roundelay of obfuscation, legal maneuvering, and outright lying. Some, like Fox' John Gibson, say things like "Karl Rove deserves a medal" for what he did (the Congressional Medal of Outing a CIA Agent, presumably); others like Rep. Peter King say what he did "took a lot of guts" (when going after someone's wife because the husband said something you disagree with is about the most cowardly thing you can do). Some say Wilson is a liar because he said that Dick Cheney sent him to Niger; in fact he said no such thing (and what Wilson's statements about that have to do with Rove outing Plame are beyond me; under what circumstances is it OK to compromise national security?).

It's so easy to knock down these talking points it's no longer worth doing. And all of them are besides the point. The point is that the President made it inescapably clear that whoever was involved with the leaking of Valerie Plame's name would be fired. And several days later, Rove still sits in his cushy office. The President's statement today was that he wouldn't prejudge the case based on media reports. I don't know how much clearer it can get than Rove's own lawyer admitting that Rove talked to Matt Cooper about Valerie Plame (oh, excuse me, "Joe Wilson's wife") before her name was public. But given how horrible the White House is coming off with their "no comments" and "ongoing investigation" nonsense, I can wait for the pressure to mount.

This all goes back to Iraq, and the danger of using shoddy intelligence to send the country to war. One particular piece of bad evidence, the "Saddam sought uranium in Africa" line, was found to be false, and to cover up this mistake, the President's top advisor outed Valerie Plame. It's the snowball effect writ large.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Why Leaks Matter

In the aftermath of the murderous London train bombings, a few of us remembered an incident from 2004. The United States government leaked the name of a high-level Al Qaeda informant named Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan when making a capture of terrorist cells in Pakistan. Khan was providing valuable information to global intelligence operations, and could have continued to do so if the U.S. wasn't so excited to announce high-level Al Qaeda captures in an election year. Khan's name was blown in conjunction with the Homeland Security announcement of a "new" plot (it was 3 years old) to attack US financial centers last August. Here's part of Senator Chuck Schumer's statement on the matter:

Last Sunday, one or more senior American officials leaked details of the capture of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, the 25-year-old Al Qaeda computer engineer, to the news media. Mr. Khan had been providing invaluable information to our allies, because he continued to maintain contact with Al Qaeda operatives even after his capture by our allies.

According to several media reports, British and Pakistani intelligence officials are furious that the Administration unmasked Mr. Khan and named other captured terrorist suspects. Yesterday’s editions of the Daily News in New York reported Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat is dismayed that the trap they hoped would lead to the capture of other top Al Qaeda leaders, possibly even Osama Bin Laden, was sprung too soon. "The network is still not finished," Hayyat said. The Daily News also quoted a British security source saying this development "makes our job harder," and Reuters quoted British Home Secretary David Blunkett saying that there is ''a difference between alerting the public to a specific threat and alarming people unnecessarily by passing on information indiscriminately.''

As you know, I believe that openness in government is generally the best policy, but the important exception should be anything that compromises national security. The statements of the British and Pakistani officials indicate that such a compromise may have occurred. In light of this possibility, I respectfully request an explanation to me and any other Member of Congress who might wish one of who leaked this Mr. Khan’s name, for what reason it was leaked, and whether the British and Pakistani reports that this leak compromised future intelligence activity are accurate.

Blowing Khan's cover had particular negative consequences for Britain, who was using the asset to strike down London's Al Qaeda cells.

The announcement of Khan's name forced the British to arrest 12 members of an al-Qaeda cell prematurely, before they had finished gathering the necessary evidence against them via Khan. Apparently they feared that the cell members would scatter as soon as they saw that Khan had been compromised. (They would have known he was a double agent, since they got emails from him Sunday and Monday!) One of the twelve has already had to be released for lack of evidence, a further fall-out of the Bush SNAFU. It would be interesting to know if other cell members managed to flee.

And then a week ago, bombs burst in the Underground. Do you think that Tony Blair would have welcomed being able to finish his investigation on Al Qaeda cells in London before the Bush Administration blew the cover of the best human intelligence asset inside Al Qaeda the world has ever had?

That, my friends, is why leaks matter. That's why you don't go around exposing the names of CIA undercover operatives for political reasons. That's why you don't use classified and sensitive information as payback to cover up lies about uranium shipments to Iraq. That's why Karl Rove doesn't deserve a job in the executive branch of the United States government.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Do Words Mean Anything?

If there's one answer we'll get over the next couple of weeks, as the White House tries to desperately manage the revelation that yes, Karl Rove did tell TIME reporter Matt Cooper that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, we'll find out if the President's word means anything anymore. The AP has helpfully given us those words in easy-to-digest article form:

Sept. 29, 2003

Q: You said this morning, quote, "The president knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved." How does he know that?

A (Scott McClellan, WH press secretary): Well, I've made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place. ... I've said that it's not true. ... And I have spoken with Karl Rove.

Q: When you talked to Mr. Rove, did you discuss, "Did you ever have this information?"

A: I've made it very clear, he was not involved, that there's no truth to the suggestion that he was.

Oct. 7, 2003

Q: You have said that you personally went to Scooter Libby (Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff), Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams (National Security Council official) to ask them if they were the leakers. Is that what happened? Why did you do that? And can you describe the conversations you had with them? What was the question you asked?

A: Unfortunately, in Washington, D.C., at a time like this there are a lot of rumors and innuendo. There are unsubstantiated accusations that are made. And that's exactly what happened in the case of these three individuals. They are good individuals. They are important members of our White House team. And that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt with that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.

Oct. 10, 2003

Q: Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

A: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.

Q: So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

A: They assured me that they were not involved in this.

Q: They were not involved in what?

A: The leaking of classified information.

The President also said, and this time not through his PR flack, that he wanted to know the truth about the Plame leak, and that "if the person has violated law, he will be taken care of." I suppose Bush couldn't get in touch with Cooper to ask him about this. Rove, however, was at his right side (almost surgically) for the last two years. This White House manhunt sounds about as comprehensive as OJ looking for the real killers.

The press corps just jumped all over poor Scotty at the WH Gaggle today. You can see it over at Crooks and Liars. Here's my favorite part:

QUESTION: Scott, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us, after having commented with that level of detail, and tell people watching this that somehow you've decided not to talk.

You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium or not?

MCCLELLAN: I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said. And I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation...

QUESTION: (inaudible) when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?

MCCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish.

QUESTION: No, you're not finishing. You're not saying anything.

You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation. Was he involved or was he not? Because contrary to what you told the American people, he did indeed talk about his wife, didn't he?

MCCLELLAN: There will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

QUESTION: Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

MCCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question.

QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott...

People on the left (even more than on the right) seem to attribute an almost mythic sense of power to Karl Rove, thinking him some sort of evil genius. He's not. He's simply a hatchet man who was willing to go farther than anyone before him, in the belief (some would say hubris) that he could get away with it. Rove's even been fired before, by the previous Bush Administration, for leaking information, to a syndicated columnist you might have heard of named Robert Novak. It takes an extreme amount of balls to do pretty much the exact same thing, again, and expect to get off scot free. And it takes a lack of an ethical center to out a CIA operative for no other reason but payback.

Now we'll have to see if the President's words mean anything, because if they do, Karl Rove will be tendering his resignation in a matter of days. And I certainly don't think that means he'll never be advising the President in an unofficial capacity anymore. But to see the continual upward mobility of incompetents and thugs, to see the total lack of accountability at this White House, should burn the hackles off of every American. And a resignation, while empty, would be in some way at least a testament that words, in America, still have power.


Terrorist Attack

MIDDLEBROOK — A small fire was set in St. John’s Reformed United Church of Christ this morning and anti-gay graffiti was painted on the side of the building.

The outside of the church was vandalized with anti-gay messages and a declaration that United Church of Christ members were sinners. The graffiti’s message appeared to be a reference to the national church’s decision earlier this week to endorse gay and lesbian marriages.

There's nothing else to call this but what it is: terrorism. The goal is to change people's actions through intimidation and fear.  Whether a woman in Pakistan gets her feet cut off for being promiscuous, or a church in America is defaced for daring to promote acceptance, the message is the same; We, the religious order of (Jesus/Allah/Zoroaster/etc.) will stop at nothing to silence those who don't show fealty to our radical beliefs.

And these are the people who say that without God there is no morality.