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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 27 June 2006
Our Man in Paris: Zizou Scores
Topic: Breaking News

Our Man in Paris: Zizou Scores
What's up in Paris? For those you following the World Cup games now in progress, Our Man in Paris (Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis) covers the joy in the streets. Things are going well.

PARIS - Tuesday, June 27 - There's a mess of unhappy Spaniards in Hanover tonight. They sent out a dancing team of scrappy kids to take on the phlegmatic French, a gang of antique joggers and bicyclists, and oh woe, their bald team captain Zizou, the much beloved top-shooter for Real Madrid, whacked in an authentic 'Zizou' goal for France in the game's closing minutes.

The French were leading two to one, having just dropped in a dubious goal as a result of a fake penalty against a Spanish player, and if that had been the winning goal relations between to two countries would have become as sour as they were during the Peninsular War.

Sometimes one wishes there could be more than one World Cup winner. When the games get good, when the teams sparkle, when the weather presents itself as atmospheric as wine and the world turns without wobbling, football's folks put all their imagination into being fans, and they are all born winners.

The French have been glum about the series until now. So much so that they staged a minor victory celebration on the Champs-Elysées after scoring higher than Togo last week. It might have been the one and only French victory, the papers said.

Right now car horns are tooting and emergency sirens are racing to scenes of overjoy, while the police in the 8th arrondissement call for reinforcements to handle the impending delirious impromptu whoop-up on the Champs-Elysées.

In Hannover old guy 'Zizou' is probably drinking Champagne while the astonished French fans put away kegs of cool beer. Le Parisien on Monday questioned the possibility of Zinedine Zidane 'saving' the French effort. Sidelined for the match against Togo on his 34th birthday because of a penalty, tonight's goal erases that disappointment.

If the Spanish were the first formidable team to be put aside by the French squad, now they face the übermanschaft of Brazil on Saturday at 21:00 in Frankfurt. There are no more 'easy' games to come. Only the best of the best make it to the quarter-finals - and who they are will be known to all by this time Saturday Night.

Copyright © 2006 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis
This item is crossposted there.

Posted by Alan at 16:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:59 PDT home

Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Notes on the Transitory and the Big Stuff
Topic: Breaking News

Notes on the Transitory and the Big Stuff

Tuesday, June 13, 2006, big news, Bush's Brain (as in the book and the movie) won't be charged with anything at all. Karl Rove will not be indicted. Either he didn't do anything wrong in the matter of exposing the CIA secret agent to attack her husband, the ambassador who made the administration and particularly the vice president seem like manipulative liars, or there wasn't enough solid proof to prove it, or something else. Who knows? And then the same day the president pops up in Baghdad for a five-hour visit, surprising everyone, including the new Iraqi prime minister, who thought he was dropping by one of the old Saddam palaces in the Green Zone for a video conference with President Bush in Camp David. And there was George in the flesh. How odd.

As for the Rove matter, it seems Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, had written a letter to Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, informing him that Karl Rove would not be charged with any crime in the whole matter, as noted here -
In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, "On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove."

... In his statement Mr. Luskin said he would not address other legal questions surrounding Mr. Fitzgerald's decision. He added, "In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct."
Yeah, good luck on that. The well-known defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt has much more here, saying the whole things is over. But Luskin refuses to release the whatever letter he got from Fitzgerald, which is curious, but also categorically denies any deal was cut to get Rove to rat out others, which means, if true, this Rove matter is dead.

The left is disappointed, and the right elated. What else would you expect? As for bitter left reactions, there's the sardonic, like this - "I find it amusing that the biggest story of the day is that a member of the Bush administration is NOT being indicted."

On the Republican right that's a good day.

But the speculation goes on, as it must, as here it's obvious to one person following the matter closely that Vice President Cheney "may" still be indicted as "the architect of this smear." You find the same sort of thing here, a "hope" that there really is some sort of deal involving turning over Cheney, or even Bush, to Fitzgerald. Hope seems silly here. One can hope for lots of things. Hope is cheap - actually free. And worthless. There seems to be no deal.

Jane Hamsher, who has been following this whole Rove business in excruciating detail - only really mad political junkies follow it all - falls back on her now vast pool of information and background fact and gives us this -
It's become ever more apparent as time goes on and Fitzgerald releases bits of information in his filings that this was a Dick Cheney operation. Rove may have gotten involved because smearing people is his idea of a good time, but the Cheney scrawlings on Joe Wilson's op-ed are the "blue dress" of this case. Look at Conrad Black. Look at George Ryan. I'm sorry, but Fitzgerald had Rove dead to rights if he wanted him, and anyone who thinks he got nothing for something has been following the story of a different prosecutor than I have been.
Well, Hamsher has studied Fitzgerald and how he works, in detail, and she may be onto something.

But maybe it is time to let it go. Posted on Flag Day, June 14, Walter Shapiro, argues the Democrats and the left might be looking a gift horse in the mouth, or something like that. As he notes here -
Fitzgerald, by not indicting Rove, may have saved the Democrats from getting too caught up in the politics of vengeance. There was always an analogy to Madame Defarge sitting by the guillotine knitting in the way that Bush haters reveled in every unreliable rumor about a Rove indictment.

Vendettas may be emotionally satisfying, but they rarely provide a formula for winning elections. In fact, the best way to get back at Rove is not through criminal prosecution but by forcing him to read an Election Night speech conceding that the Democrats have won back Congress.
Yeah, saved by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald from looking like foaming-at-the-mouth Bush-haters. It's a gift. But the hope is thin. The election will be close, the electronic voting machines everywhere easily hacked and closed to any kind of auditing at all, and the districts well gerrymandered. We'll see.

As for that trip to Baghdad, the CNN account is here, and an interesting assessment from Glenn Greenwald here -
George Bush paid a surprise visit this morning to Iraq and, according to the immediately solidified media consensus, this is but the latest step in the heroic political comeback of George W. Bush, and yet another sign that things are "turning around" in the war. It is always so striking how heavily this administration relies upon political theater, and how eagerly and giddily the national media consumes it. In just the first few minutes of coverage, scores of reporters pranced across the television set struggling to contain their excited admiration for the President's audacious survey of his conquered land.

No matter how many times one flips through news channels this morning, one hears the same thing. The new Iraqi government has been formed. We killed Zarqawi. Bush has a "new team" in place. Karl Rove has been "cleared" in the Plame matter. Polls after Zarqawi's death show an "uptick" in support for the war. And now the President plans a secret mission to visit Iraq in order to meet with the new Prime Minister. Happy days are here again.

The media is desperate to find "big stories" every day. As a result, events which are so plainly inconsequential from a perspective which spans more than the last ten minutes of world events - such as Bush's stunt this morning in secretly materializing in Baghdad - are endlessly seized upon as evidence of some grand world change. The president's approval rating has been humiliating low and collapsing for almost a full year now, but one new poll shows a two-point increase to still-embarrassing levels of unpopularity, and - presto! - the President is recovering and is becoming popular again. Every event is reported and analyzed based exclusively on what has happened in the last five seconds, with the events of the prior week, or month, or year, all but ignored.
That about sums it up, except two of the polls, CBS and Rasmussen, actually show no bounce.

But on Flag Day, June 14, the Wall Street Journal is on the good news bandwagon here, but cautiously.

Greenwald is just bitter, noting the fundamental, "deeply entrenched problems with our war effort" that even the conservative were admitting before this Baghdad jaunt -
But to the media, a photo op here, a cosmetic personnel change there, and the death of a single terrorist - and all of those problems magically vanish. In two short weeks filled with melodramatic, exaggerated media events, both the Iraq war and the president's deep political problems have fundamentally improved. Big news! The President has turned all of this around. He is now bold and successful again. And his oh-so-brave flight to Iraq symbolizes how strong and successful he is. How long before we hear from Brit Hume or Candy Crowley about some apocryphal anecdote about the covert Air Force One flight or the folksy but audacious comment made by the Commander-in-Chief when he came up with this idea and insisted that he go despite the urgent pleas from his aides that it wasn't safe enough?

The realities are ignored in favor of the breathless media events. The fact that Iraq is such a dangerous and anarchic place - a full three years after our invasion - that the President still can't visit except by unannounced theater demonstrates how disastrous the situation is there, not how successful our occupation is.

... Iraqi death squads? Iranian control of internal Iraqi affairs? Abu Ghraib and Haidatha and the invasion itself causing Middle Eastern Muslims to think even worse of the U.S.? The destruction of U.S. credibility? All of that was interesting for awhile, but now, none of it matters, because the President staged one of those exciting movie events again, Karl Rove isn't going to prison, and the USA Today poll shows a two-point increase in the President's approval rating after he bagged a bad guy. We are seeing a new and emboldened president and a new and successful war. The pictures have been so dramatic and this is all so very, very exciting indeed.
Well, that's the way things work. Maybe this will turn out better thah the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier thing. While in Baghdad that same day thirty-six more died in car bombings, eighteen at one time up north in Kirkuk, the others here and there.

And this photo (Pablo Martinez Monsivais for AP), just about sums it all up, with the caption - "White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, left, and White House Counselor Dan Bartlett, ride in a military helicopter wearing helmets and flak jackets for a trip from Baghdad International Airport to U.S. Embassy in the Greenzone Tuesday, June 13, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq." They look grim and scared shitless, and the AP guy will now be shunned by the White House. But Pablo Martinez Monsivais had fun.

And all over the place there was this -
People in European and Muslim countries see US policy in Iraq as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran's nuclear programme [sic], a survey has shown.

The survey by the Pew Research Group also found support for US President George W Bush and his "war on terror" had dropped dramatically worldwide.

Goodwill created by US aid for nations hit by the 2004 tsunami had also faded since last year, the survey found.

The survey questioned 17,000 people in 15 countries, including the US.

The latest in a series of annual polls by the Pew Global Attitudes Project interviewed respondents between 31 March and 14 May 2006.
You can see some of the results in a table here. It's not pretty. But then we don't want to be liked, or admired, or respected - we just want to be feared, and right about everything. In every Muslim in the Muddle East is there really an American inside trying to get free? We'll see about that.

In short, the transitory events of one day are overwhelmed by the big stuff.

And the Republicans running for office in November are avoiding having the president come speak for them - his wife, Laura, would, they say, be better - and more and more of the commentators and cheerleaders in the media are bailing out on the whole enterprise (as here), with many saying with all the spending and social programs like Medicare Part D he's not really a conservative, leading to analyses like this from Jonathan Chait in The New Republic - Binge and Purge - The Right Expels Bush (subscription only). This is not about teenage girls and their eating disorders, but about the political problem -
In "The Man Who Would Be King," the late-nineteenth-century Rudyard Kipling story later turned into a movie, an English adventurer named Daniel Dravot becomes the regent of Kafiristan, a remote mountainous region north of India. Dravot leads the Kafiri people to a string of battlefield victories, and they receive him as a God, the son of Alexander the Great, and turn their treasure over to him. But then they see him bleed, and - discovering he is mortal after all - turn on him with unbridled rage. Mobs of tribesmen denounce him as a fraud, chase him out of the temple, and ultimately send him plummeting to his doom.
You remember that - Sean Connery and Michael Caine - but it may be apt here. Something is up.

Josh Marshall says here that something may be really big -
With all the efforts now to disassociate President Bush from conservatism, I am starting to believe that conservatism itself - not the political machine, mind you, but the ideology - is heading toward that misty land-over-the-ocean where ideologies go after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. Sort of like the way post-Stalinist lefties used to say, "You can't say Communism's failed. It's just never really been tried."

But as it was with Communism, so with conservatism. When all the people who call themselves conservatives get together and run the government, they're on the line for it. Conservative president. Conservative House. Conservative Senate.

What we appear to be in for now is the emergence of this phantom conservatism existing out in the ether, wholly cut loose from any connection to the actual people who are universally identified as the conservatives and who claim the label for themselves.

We can even go a bit beyond this though. The big claim now is that President Bush isn't a conservative because he hasn't shrunk the size of government and he's a reckless deficit spender.

But let's be honest: Balanced budgets and shrinking the size of government hasn't been part of conservatism - or to be more precise, Movement Conservatism - for going on thirty years. The conservative movement and the Republican Party are the movement and party of deficit spending. And neither has any claim to any real association with limited or small government. Just isn't borne out by any factual record or political agenda. Not in the Reagan presidency, the Bush presidency or the second Bush presidency. The intervening period of fiscal restraint comes under Clinton.

Take the movement on its own terms and even be generous about it. What's it about? And has it delivered?

Aggressive defense policy? Check.

Privatization of government services? Check.

Regulatory regimes favoring big business? Check.

Government support for traditional mores and values on sex and marriage? Check.

That about covers it. And Bush has delivered. The results just aren't good.
Yep, it doesn't work. But then, it's what we have, a fake conservative government concerned with appearing "muscular" (preemptive wars of choice defying the world), with making the rich richer and businesses free to do what they want, and obsessed with sex (no abortions as that's no woman's own decision, and make the gay folks just go away) and with death (the federal government should make sure the brain dead have their bodies kept functioning for as long as possible), and obsessed with a specific vision of a vengeful God as part of the government itself, keeping people in line - and a ruined economy with low wages and dead-end jobs for all. Huh?

Change coming? Had enough?

Samuel Johnson famously said, long ago, that for a man to marry a second time represents the triumph of hope over experience. But it's not just that second marriage. People are forever thinking the next time they'll get it right, or we'll all get it right, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, what Johnson called "experience." And we have these elections coming up.

Change? Hope is cheap - actually free. And worthless.

Posted by Alan at 22:14 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006 06:42 PDT home

Saturday, 10 June 2006
Late News: Things Turn Sour
Topic: Breaking News

Late News: Things Turn Sour

Well, it finally happened. It was inevitable. But luckily it happened on a weekend, not in the middle of the normal news cycles. The Monday morning issues of Time and Newsweek and the others have been put to bed, as they say, and the cable news networks are running their canned "backgrounders" - and the commentators, O'Reilly and Matthews and the rest, are off-air for the weekend. This will come up on Meet the Press and the other Sunday morning talk shows, but only political junkies watch those. And since the news takes the weekend off, the story gets buried. When the national dialog, or whatever you call it, starts up again Monday, this will be old news. Other events will come along and push it aside. And there are two days to work on spin if someone does want to discuss the matter.

The Associated Press account here gives the basics -
Three Guantanamo Bay detainees hanged themselves with nooses made of sheets and clothes, the commander of the detention center said Saturday.

They were the first reported deaths among the hundreds of men held at the base in Cuba - some of them for up to 4 1/2 years and without charge.

Two men from Saudi Arabia and one from Yemen were found "unresponsive and not breathing in their cells" early Saturday, according to a statement from the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the prison. Attempts were made to revive the prisoners, but they failed.

"They hung themselves with fabricated nooses made out of clothes and bed sheets," Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris told reporters in a conference call from the U.S. base in southeastern Cuba.

Pentagon officials said the three men were in Camp 1, the highest maximum security prison at Guantanamo, and that none of them had tried to commit suicide before.

That camp was also the location where two detainees tried to commit suicide in mid-May, when a riot broke out at the facility. The two men, who took overdoses of an anti-anxiety medication they hoarded, were found and received medical treatment and were recovering.
This just looks bad, and the president can't catch a break - we killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the nastiest guys in Iraq, and that was something to crow about, if you're into that sort of thing. Now these three guys do this and make us look bad. We were supposed to be treating everyone humanely and appropriately, and they get all uppity and hang themselves.

We are holding four hundred sixty folks down that way in Cuba, saying they have links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, although there's some proof many of them were nobodies sold to us as bad guys for the substantial cash we offered, and there have been no real hearings in the more than four years to straighten it all out. Some were captured thirteen and fourteen-year-old kids. We say they all have intelligence value and we will extract from them, one way or another, what they know about ongoing plots to attack America. That seems a bit silly as what they know is more than four years old - we've had them more than isolated. But there they stay.

Add to this the AP item reports that the Pentagon also postponed the military tribunal of one Binyam Muhammad, an Ethiopian detainee, originally scheduled for next week. He's charged with conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders to attack civilians and such. It seems like a bad time to start straightening things out, right now. The president was at Camp David and was told of what happened, and the State Department was immediately consulting with the governments of the home countries of the three prisoners. This needs to be handled carefully. The home governments might be a bit miffed.

But we did the right thing, after all -
The military said in its statement that "all lifesaving measures had been exhausted" in the attempt to revive the detainees. The remains were being treated "with the utmost respect," an issue important to Muslims. A cultural adviser was assisting the military.

Though the military termed the deaths suicides, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service was investigating to establish the official cause and manner of death.
But this comes after the UN report in May - holding detainees indefinitely at Guantanamo violated the world's ban on torture. The UN said we should close the place. We disagree, even if German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and British Prime Minister Tony Blair say we should shut down the place. They may be allies, and pro-Bush, but this is our way of handling things, and we assert we know best, and it's really none of their business.

Well, actually it's more complicated -
On Friday, after the prison came up during a meeting with Fogh Rasmussen at Camp David, Bush said his goal is to do just that. A total of 759 detainees have been held there, with about 300 released or transferred.

"We would like to end the Guantanamo - we'd like it to be empty," Bush said. But he added: "There are some that, if put out on the streets, would create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world. And, therefore, I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States."

Bush said his administration was waiting for the Supreme Court to rule whether he overstepped his authority in ordering the detainees to be tried by U.S. military tribunals.
There are legal issues, you see, and four and half years of Cuba might make them dangerous if we let them go, even if they were or weren't dangerous before.

AP quote Josh Colangelo-Bryan of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who discovered one of his clients attempting to hang himself last year when he visited Guantanamo, saying there would be more suicides. One of the prisoners said this to him - "I would simply rather die than live here forever without rights."

But we say all these detainees pose a danger to the United States and our allies. What can we do? As the statement from the military put it - "They have expressed a commitment to kill Americans and our friends if released. These are not common criminals. They are enemy combatants being detained because they have waged war against our nation and they continue to pose a threat."

But they've proved none of that. No real hearings. You have to trust them on that. Why not?

One of those release last year, Moazzam Begg, says to the Associated Press - "We all expected something like this but were not prepared. It's just awful. I hope the Bush administration will finally see this is wrong."

Not likely. Now we can't be. We've cornered ourselves on that.

So, so far, forty-one suicide attempts by twenty-five prisoners, and three polled it off. The few lawyers we've let in say the number of attempts is far higher, but then, the military says otherwise.

Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing three hundred of these folks, in telephone interview from New York, is reported to have said those held at Guantanamo "have this incredible level of despair that they will never get justice. And now they're gone. And they died without ever having seen a court."

But we said they were guilty. There were bad guys. Still Olshansky is calling for the Bush folks "for immediate action to do the right thing. They should be taken to court or released. I don't think this country wants the stain of injustice on it for many years to come."

She doesn't understand Dick Cheney, or the Texan president he manages. They've convinced most of the country that this is justice - you don't necessarily need things proved at all, or a trial or hearing or military tribunal to establish the facts. You just know some things are so.

Ah well. They'll be a bit more careful down there with the sheets now.

It hasn't been going that well -
On May 18, in one of the prison's most violent incidents, a detainee staged a suicide attempt to lure guards into a cellblock where they were attacked by prisoners armed with makeshift weapons, the military said. Earlier that day, two detainees overdosed on antidepressants they collected from other detainees and hoarded in their cells. The men have since recovered.

There also has been a hunger strike among detainees since August. The number of inmates refusing food dropped to 18 by last weekend from a high of 131. The military has at times used aggressive force-feeding methods, including a restraint chair.
Of course our "image" in the world is now going to be lower than ever. The administration's take on that - Who cares? - will be picked up by the pro-administration commentators, while the more diplomatically-minded, the dinosaurs, will wonder how much we can really do in this sorry world with no influence, no leverage, and just the biggest military on the planet. So we move further and further into becoming a pariah, and rouge state ourselves, but will the overwhelming military and the core economy.

These three sure messed things up, just when we assassinated a really awful man and everyone was supposed to admire us for that.

Now what? Let the spin begin.

First up is this -
The commander of the US Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Rear Admiral Harry Harris has described the overnight suicide of three inmates "as an act of war."

Three detainees at the US detention centre committed suicide by hanging themselves with clothing and bedsheets. Rear Admiral Harris, commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, described the suicides as an act of creative and committed terrorists. "They are smart. They are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of ...warfare waged against us."
Ah, those clever devils.

Posted by Alan at 18:10 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 10 June 2006 18:11 PDT home

Monday, 8 May 2006
The CIA Gamble: The No-Nonsense, Blue-Collar General from Pittsburgh
Topic: Breaking News

The CIA Gamble: The No-Nonsense, Blue-Collar General from Pittsburgh

Like Gertrude Stein, Oscar Levant, Gene Kelly and Andy Warhol, and Ernest Borgnine, Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden comes from Pittsburgh, so you have to like him. His father worked as a welder and Hayden drove a cab as he worked his way through the quite respectable Duquesne University there - BA History 1967 and MA Modern American History 1969. And like Colin Powell, the child of Jamaican immigrants who grew up in Queens, Hayden come up through the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). Not all the top generals start out at West Point (or in the case of Marine Generals and Navy Admirals, Annapolis). Hayden got there the harder way.

And now he may run the CIA, as the morning announcement on Monday, May 8, was what had been rumored since the previous guy, the civilian Porter Goss, resigned the Friday before, surprising everyone. Something was up.

The News -
President Bush named Gen. Michael V. Hayden as CIA director today in the face of criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats.

In an indication that even more changes are planned at the agency, officials said Hayden's deputy would likely be former CIA deputy director of operations Stephen R. Kappes, who resigned less than two months after Porter J. Goss took over as CIA director in late 2004.

Goss was forced to resign last Friday after a turbulent tenure marked by an exodus of some of the agency's top talent, including Kappes.
Yeah, Hayden looks a little scary (photo courtesy of Martini Republic), but he's a blue-collar sort and not a Republican operative like Goss, the former congressman from Florida, and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, who had key CIA senior managers and directors quitting left and right in disgust as Goss worked on purging the CIA of anyone who brought in facts from the field that undermined what Vice President Cheney and his associates knew was true and were feeding to the uncomplicated president. Kappes "coming in from the cold" (in a sense other than what those words mean in the spy novels) could be a good sign.

Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden
But the Hayden guy looks a bit like an evil Elmer Fudd. And even if he's an Air Force general, and "the highest-ranking military intelligence officer in the armed forces," he is the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities of the national intelligence program - he runs the National Security Agency (NSA), and has vigorously defended the president's ongoing program to tap citizens' phones and read their email without doing what the law quite specifically requires, obtaining a warrant from the FISA court that was set up just for that purpose. And he's Principal Deputy Director to National Intelligence Director, the big cheese, John Negroponte, who has his own history, recently our ambassador in Iraq, before that our UN ambassador, and long before that reported to be the man who, as our ambassador to Honduras, funded and directed the death squads bumping off nuns and such in that Contra business down that way. Elmer Fudd just tried to shoot Bugs Bunny. These two are a little creepy.

Hayden too may have not remembered much from his classroom days at Duquesne University. Everyone worried about this appointment was reminding everyone they could buttonhole of this - speaking at the National Press Club in Washington on January 23, 2006, about that warrantless surveillance, during the question and answer period following his speech, the man flatly denied that a "probable cause" was standard in the Fourth Amendment that limits the government's ability to conduct searches and, by extension, surveillance. He said those words just weren't in the Fourth Amendment.

Knight-Ridder reporter Jonathan Landay made the mistake of opening a question with "the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures." Big mistake -
Hayden: No actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against "unreasonable search and seizure."

Landay: But the measure is "probable cause," I believe.

Hayden: The amendment says "unreasonable search and seizure."

Landay: But does it not say -

Hayden: No. The amendment says -

Landay: The court standard, the legal standard -

Hayden: - unreasonable search and seizure.
More taste! Less filling! You could look it up. It says both - "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

But Hayden persisted -
Just to be very clear - and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it's the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. And so what you've raised to me - and I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to become one - what you've raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is "reasonable." And we believe - I am convinced that we are lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.
One reporter, James Bamford, asked him if the real purpose of going around the FISA was "to lower the standard from what they call for, which is basically probable cause, to a reasonable basis; and then to take it away from a federal court judge, the FISA court judge, and hand it over to a shift supervisor at NSA."

Hayden then defended the professionalism of the shift supervisors. He wasn't going to touch that.

Something is up. Perhaps an "Orwell Alert" is called for.

Of course no one questions his credentials as a wonderful officer and a man who actually knows how to run large organizations (unlike Goss, his predecessor, with no experience running anything at all). He's good. People do, however, question his grasp of what's legal, and what certain organizations are allowed to do, and not allowed to do. He doesn't seem to think that matters all that much. It's new world - 9/11 changed everything and all that.

And the organization, the CIA, does need some help.

As the Hayden announcement was made, there was this in the background -
CIA Director Porter Goss' No. 3 man at the agency, facing investigation as part of a congressional bribery probe, quit Monday, an official said.

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the CIA's executive director, announced his resignation in an e-mail message to agency staff, a U.S. official told United Press International on condition of anonymity.

His departure follows Goss' hasty resignation Friday, which some reports have linked to the broadening bribe probe centered on disgraced former California GOP Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham.
It seems the CIA's inspector general is investigating Foggo's relationship with Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor implicated in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery thing. Foggo and Wilkes are old college buddies (San Diego State) and they're close, best man at each other's wedding and all that. And it looks like Foggo may have steered CIA contracts to companies controlled by Wilkes or one of his relatives, accordinng to this.

There's some cleaning up to do. And the New York Daily News had reported here that the investigation had spooked the mysterious Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (a group of private citizens the president appoints to help out - mostly business folks) and they leaned to John Negroponte to talk the president, who never fires anayone, and tell him he really did have to dump Goss. Yeah, if you're loyal to the president and say yes a lot, and help get his enemies, your job is safe. But not always. It helps if you also are not so foolish as to be caught with you hand in the till. The "being caught" is the problem. Bad form. There are enough problems.

There are those dismal polls.

The previous week there was a bit of a break as the Fox News poll showed a reversal in the low approval ratings - the president moved up from thirty-three percent to thirty-eight percent approval. The man who thinks Bush hung the moon, and maintained Bush way back when really did volunteer to fly combat missions in Vietnam, Fred Barnes, here said things are actually turning around. Just look at the numbers.

All the other polls had the president's approval ratings in the low thirties, and dropping. The Fox News poll turned out to be an anomaly, or at least a poll with very cleverly worded questions. Monday, May 8th, as Hayden was being introduced as the new CIA guy, USA Today / Gallup released their new numbers. They showed a drop in the president's approval rating of three points in one week, down to a record low of thirty-one percent. (With two and a half years to go in his term, at a drop of three points a week, the president's approval rating when he leaves office would, in a simple linear projection, be at negative three hundred fifty-seven percent, hypothetically.) In the item the University of Wisconsin polling expert Charles Franklin adds this - "You hear people say he has a hard core that will never desert him, and that has been the case for most of the administration, but for the last few months, we started to see that hard core seriously erode in support." What? The overall disapproval rating is sixty-five percent, and just fifty-two percent of self-described conservatives approve of what he's doing. This is no time for a bribery scandal at the CIA. The straight-shooting guy from Pittsburgh was the answer, and not a moment too soon, even if he is a little shaky on what the constitution and the FISA law say. At least he's not a crook.

But he must be confirmed by the Senate, and there may be a problem there. There was discussion of the Hayden nomination the weekend before the announcement (everyone knew what it would be, of course). Key senators, including some Republicans, didn't thin the man from Pittsburgh would do at all, as Fred Kaplan explains here
One of the two main complaints, voiced on the Sunday talk shows by members of both parties, is that a military officer should not be in charge of the CIA. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein even claimed, "Federal law stipulates a civilian should run the agency.") The other issue is that Hayden was director of the National Security Agency when it launched President Bush's illegal domestic-surveillance program and, therefore, can't be trusted to balance national security with civil liberties.

Both matters account in part for the leeriness toward Hayden. But the real reason involves an overlapping slew of turf wars among three factions: the CIA's professional intelligence officers, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, and - especially - John Negroponte's nascent Office of the National Intelligence Director.

Let us first dispose of one myth before it takes hold: There is nothing unprecedented about naming a military officer to run the CIA (six CIA directors in the agency's history have been generals or admirals), nor is there anything improper. The relevant federal statute, 15 U.S.C. Section 403c, states that of the following three positions - CIA director, deputy director, and deputy director for community management - "not more than one" may be held by a commissioned officer, whether active-duty or retired. In other words, it is legal for one of them to be an officer. In fact, the section expresses "the sense of Congress" that "it is desirable that one of the individuals ... be a commissioned officer ... or have, by training or experience, an appreciation of military intelligence activities and requirements."

As a cautionary measure, the law further states that a military officer who holds one of these positions "shall not be subject to supervision or control by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or employee of the Department of Defense."

It is also worth noting, in any case, that Gen. Hayden is unlikely to serve as a Rumsfeld tool. While he ran the National Security Agency, which falls under the Defense Department's formal jurisdiction, he resisted repeated attempts by Rumsfeld to curb his independence. As one Pentagon official told me today, "He is no Rumsfeld kitten."
But then Kaplan quotes Peter Hoekstra, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Goss' old job before the CIA, saying "We need to be able to get the unvarnished intelligence, and we need to be able to get it from a civilian. Putting a general in charge is going to send the wrong signal through the agency here in Washington but also to our agents in the field around the world."

Maybe so. When Baghdad fell it was the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, that was put in charge in Iraq, with the mandate to fix things. It wasn't the State Department as one might have expected. Al the generals up through their civilian task master, Rumsfeld, have not inspired confidence. A general at the CIA? That thought makes some a bit antsy.

And would Hayden report to John Negroponte or Donald Rumsfeld. As an Air Force general he does report to Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, on paper, but he's been on loan to the man in the newly created position of coordinating all intelligence of all sorts, Negroponte. This is very odd.

Kaplan -
Hayden is not just the former director of the NSA. More to the point, he is the current deputy director to Negroponte. Porter Goss met with Negroponte right before his "resignation" as CIA chief was announced on Friday. By all accounts, it was Negroponte, not President Bush, who told him he had to leave. There were, no doubt, many reasons for Goss' removal: his inability to bring the agency under control, his alienation of career officers (and not just those who opposed Bush's policies), his filling top slots with amateurish, possibly corrupt, cronies.

Whatever tipped the balance against Goss, one incontestable effect of replacing him with Hayden will be the strengthening of Negroponte and the further centralization of the intelligence community inside the White House.

Last month, Hoekstra said that Negroponte's office was "not adding any value" to the intelligence community, that it simply piled on another layer of bureaucracy. In March, Hoekstra's committee asked Congress to freeze part of Negroponte's budget until he explained his plans to expand his staff.

"We have to strengthen the CIA," Hoekstra said on Sunday. Appointing someone like Hayden, he added, "is exactly the wrong thing to be talking about at this critical moment."

It is hard to say whether the further empowerment of Negroponte's office is a good thing or a bad thing. Too little is known, really, about just what Negroponte does, just how he plans to reform the intelligence community, and just where he stands on what has long been the central internecine dispute within that community - how to divvy up authority on covert operations between the CIA and the Pentagon's Special Operations forces. Rumsfeld has been pushing for a broad expansion of Special Ops' intelligence duties. Goss was trying to stiffen the CIA's clandestine branch, but his sloppy management - and the subsequent departure of several operations chiefs - made matters worse.
It's very Byzantine - Rumsfeld wants to run everything, and so does Negroponte. Who knows what to make of the appointment of the overly-matrixed constitutionally-challenged general from Pittsburgh?

Kaplan doesn't have an answer, but is troubled by that Fourth Amendment business at the question and answer session at the National Press Club. He says that's pretty "startling" -
Hayden may have dug his own hole with this one, and it is equally amazing that the Bush White House - already beset with Republican lawmakers seeking to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular president - didn't conduct due diligence on this point before nominating Hayden.

The critics in Congress failed in their attempt, earlier this year, to rally opposition to the surveillance program. But Hayden's nomination - especially in the face of impending midterm elections -opens the door once more. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, said of Hayden's confirmation hearings, "We could use them for leverage to find out" more about the NSA's entire program. Hoekstra predicted that this controversy could stretch the hearings out to "three or four months."

Meanwhile, others who oppose Hayden's nomination - for whatever reasons - can be counted on to use the interregnum to make as much mischief as possible. Even Pat Roberts, the usually pliant Republican chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday, "I'm not in a position to say that I am for Gen. Hayden and will vote for him." When even Roberts sits on the fence with his finger in the air, waiting to see which way the wind blows, the White House should know it's in trouble.
Maybe so, but there's a growing sense that the Fourth Amendment business at the question and answer session at the National Press Club is just why the guy from Pittsburgh was nominated. The theory there would be that since the public has been made so fearful of "the bad guys" they will rally around the president when the questions about trashing the constitution and ignoring the laws come up in the confirmation hearings - do you want a wimp who plays by the silly rules and mere niceties, or do you want a real man, a blue-collar no-nonsense welder's son who will cut through all the crap and get the bad guys? That's worked before. Hayden then becomes a symbol, someone to remind America of why they once liked George "I don't do nuance" Bush so much. The approval numbers will skyrocket, or not.

That's risky. Hidden in the polls is an odd implication that in some way perhaps two-thirds of us, when we hear someone bragging that "I don't think about things - I do things," look around at how things are going and mutter "Yeah, right." The magic may be gone.

But the hope lives on. Super-right-man, Hugh Hewitt, here thinks the Hayden nomination is just great, because it "proudly asserts that the NSA program ... was not only the right thing to do, it was completely within the law." And another comment here - "I say, bring it on. The White House NEEDS to fight this battle, to expose the anti-security Left." But that one's from a sixteen-year-old. Adults now expect nuance, and some attempt to avoid breaking the actual law, and some attempt to follow the actual words in the constitution.

We'll see. And it may not matter, as here it seems the general from Pittsburgh may be connected to the "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal too.

The real Elmer Fudd:

Elmer Fudd

The cartoon that really applies here is Pinky and the Brain - a genetically engineered mouse (who sounds a whole lot like Orson Welles) and his quite amusingly insane mouse cohort make nightly attempts to take over the world. This was a co-production of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment and Warner Brothers that ran from 1995 to 1998. There were sixty-five episodes, and it wasn't really for kids - the dialog was far too witty and subtle, and there were all those references to classic films like "The Third Man" and "Bride of Frankenstein" and such. It was about power and insanity.

Pinky: Gee, Brain. What are we going to do tonight?
The Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.

Note this cell. You can clearly see Michael Hayden and John Negroponte, or George Bush and Dick Cheney. Hollywood always has been subversive.

Pinky and the Brain

Posted by Alan at 22:36 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006 06:55 PDT home

Friday, 5 May 2006
Whipsaw Friday: What A Way To End The Week
Topic: Breaking News

Whipsaw Friday: What A Way To End The Week

So the managing editor, that person who decides what news story goes first, and which stories follow, and in which order, and how many column inches or airtime each gets, depending on the medium, on Friday, May 5th, faced a bit of dilemma.

You had to go with another Kennedy, under the influence, in a car wreck, even if no one died this time. You had to go with this - "A day after a minor traffic caused a major stir by raising questions about Representative Patrick J. Kennedy's condition while he was driving, the Congressman announced that he is entering treatment for addiction to prescription medication."

As this Kennedy, a six-term Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, is the son of Ted Kennedy - the Democratic senator from Massachusetts who could never run for president, as his two older brothers had, after he had driven off a bridge and the sweet young thing with him died - this was just too juicy not to run top right, page one, or use to open the newscast. You could play up "The Curse of Camelot" - America's "first royal family" and its tragic flaws, or, if you were playing to the right, its inherent sleaziness and immorality that mirrored the inherent sleaziness and immorality of all liberals (the current crop of Republicans may be crooks and going to jail in twos and threes weekly, but at least they are pious Christians who have some self-control).

The administration and the Republicans in the House and Senate had been taking a beating, and the day had opened with another new poll, with the president's approval hitting a new low, the lowest of any second term president except for Nixon the week before he resigned, thirty-three percent, and with the Republican congress dropping ten points down to twenty-five percent approval. The Democrats had been making hay (or hey) over all the problems - the size of the "strongly disapprove" numbers and the word "incompetence" coming up so often seemed to have a whole lot to do with war in Iraq and the problems there more than three years after we "won," and the lingering issue of FEMA and the slow-reacting president and the still obvious mess in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast long after Hurricane Katrina, and the record-high gasoline prices, and this and that. And the morning had opened up with the job numbers for the last month - the Labor Department reported American employers added 138,000 jobs in April, and economists had expected 200,000 new jobs as a median, a little below the 217,000 news jobs that would keep up with population growth. Bummer - but actually great news for some. The stock market hit a six year high - maybe there'd not be another inflation fighting interest rate hike from the Fed, making doing business one notch more expense, and this would hold down costs by tamping down salaries, killing "wage demand" (see Bloomberg here). Hey, no one would be demanding higher wages or bailing out for a better job now, and labor cost would go down again. Business would continue to boom. Yes, it is troubling that those who actually vote have seen their real wages decline significantly in the last six years, and their health care and commuting costs jump amazingly higher and higher quite regularly, and that corporations don't vote (they only buy the behavior of those who have been voted in). But you could spin this. The economy is really great. Business is booming. And as for the eighty percent for whom it isn't, the new data could be spun as being their own fault for not taking personal responsibility for their lives, or for not buying big blocks of stocks and bonds, like normal people.

In the context of the day's "numbers" the Kennedy story was a godsend. No matter how bad things seemed, you could at least say "look at the druggie, or really, the drunk - do you want those sort of people in charge?"

The Kennedy story played into the Republican "We're the Responsible Ones" narrative that had been being torn to shreds. And the younger Kennedy had a mid-day news conference where he said he'd be off to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for some rehabilitation treatment, as he said the problem was, really, that for years he'd been dealing with clinical depression - the deadly serious underlying problem.

This was too good, evoking the name Thomas Eagleton, the senator who withdrew from the Mondale ticket back in 1972 when it came out that he had the same problem, and had had shock treatments. Democrats are just certifiably insane. The Kennedy story was a gift - a ray of light after months and months of darkness.

Of course there was a bit of gloom the same day for the evangelical right and the "values" crowd and their fight against Darwin and science that supports him, and the math and physics and astronomy that support that evolution stuff, as the Vatican's astronomer visited Scotland and said some distressing things, as we see in The Scotsman here -
Believing that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.

He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

Brother Consolmagno, who was due to give a speech at the Glasgow Science Centre last night, entitled "Why the Pope has an Astronomer", said the idea of papal infallibility had been a "PR disaster". What it actually meant was that, on matters of faith, followers should accept "somebody has got to be the boss, the final authority".

"It's not like he has a magic power, that God whispers the truth in his ear," he said.
Damn - even if the Catholic Church has a problem with war as a good thing, and doesn't see torture as morally right even if only Americans do it for the greater good, at least they adamantly condemn abortion, and the use of birth control of any kind, and seem so obviously Republican - and now we get this. Creationism and Intelligent Design are just paganism repackaged. Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality? Bummer.

But the news from Brother Consolmagno was lucky insignificant in light of the Kennedy story, as every managing editor over here knew. The Catholic Church ripping apart of creationism, and by implication its subset Intelligent Design, was put on the backburner. We had other Friday fish to fry. And very few care what if anything happens in Glasgow.

So the day was to be a turning point for the sinking Republicans and the beleaguered president.

Then it all fell apart. The CIA Director resigned, or was fired, or forced out, or something, and the news hit the wires an hour or two before the younger Kennedy made his remarks and left the room for Rochester Minnesota.

The official explanation of what this was all about, delivered as usual by way of leaks from those inside who demanded anonymity (how Americans get the White House version of things), came from the Washington Post Saturday morning with this array of tidbits -
Porter J. Goss was forced to step down yesterday as CIA director, ending a turbulent 18-month tenure marked by an exodus of some of the agency's top talent and growing White House dissatisfaction with his leadership during a time of war.

The likely successor to Goss is Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency and now deputy to Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, senior administration officials said. He could be named as soon as Monday.

Seated next to President Bush in the Oval Office, Goss, a Republican congressman from Florida before he took over the CIA, said he was "stepping aside" but gave no reason for the departure.
Bush, who did not name a successor, said he had accepted the resignation and thanked Goss for his service.

... senior administration officials said Bush had lost confidence in Goss, 67, almost from the beginning and decided months ago to replace him. In what was described as a difficult meeting in April with Negroponte, Goss was told to prepare to leave by May, according to several officials with knowledge of the conversation.

"There has been an open conversation for a few weeks, through Negroponte, with the acknowledgment of the president" about replacing Goss, said a senior White House official who discussed the internal deliberations on the condition of anonymity. Another senior White House official said Goss had always been viewed as a "transitional figure" who would leave by year's end. His departure was accelerated when Bush shook up his White House staff in hopes of beginning a political turnaround.

... administration officials said Goss never forged a strong relationship with Bush. "It just didn't click," one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Goss's reserved personality and inability to master details of intelligence activities dampened the atmosphere of the president's morning intelligence briefing, which had been a central feature of the close relationship between Bush and Tenet.
So that's what was leaked to the Post so they could provide the "real story" as the White house wants it told - Goss was just not a good ol' boy and it that wouldn't do. He was too "reserved," and that was his downfall. And he probably didn't like the ranch either. Snob. Not one of the regular guys.

The Post does mentions other factors the White House didn't need to leak - the open revolt in the agency with a good number of key high-level executives quitting in disgust as top positions went to Republican operatives who knew next to nothing about what the CIA did and how things worked.

Keith Olbermann on his MSNBC show "Countdown" interviewed an ex-CIA fellow and asked him if Goss had been trying to turn the CIA into FEMA, with a whole array Michael Browns running the major operations. The ex-CIA guy got a kick out of that and smiled broadly.

There is that 'let's make it political" factor, the effort to make the agency Republican, and not neutral. The old CIA was mad as hell when that Plame woman, a key secret agent, was exposed in the process of a political "hit" to discredit her pesky husband, and demanded an investigation, the one that we have now. Goss, who was head of the House Intelligence Committee at the time said he saw no problem. That didn't endear him to those he was then supposed to manage. And firing the woman who leaked to the Post all that stuff about our secret prisons in the old Soviet prisons in Eastern Europe, and about the nasty "renditions" that filled them, didn't work out well when it turned out she hadn't and this was part of an effort to purge the agency of those who even once voted fro a Democrat or who were just neutral? That didn't make Goss too popular in the ranks - you don't dump professional directors of key operations with decades of hard-won experience and excellent contacts because they're not enthusiast Republicans. And you don't laugh off exposing a key agent because her husband embarrassed the president and suggested he was a liar or a fool. Or maybe you do. But it doesn't make you popular with those risking their lives just trying to find out what's really going on in the hotspots of the world.

The Los Angeles Times runs this -
Four former deputy directors of operations once tried to offer Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials who are aware of the communications. The perception that Goss was conducting a partisan witch hunt grew, too, as staffers asked about the party affiliation of officers who sent in cables or analyses on Iraq that contradicted the Defense Department's more optimistic scenarios.
But the White House just lost confidence - and too this Goss fellow didn't like working under Negroponte instead of the old way where the CIA director controlled more and had the president's ear.

But the leaked White House version of what happened just doesn't make sense. No public reason for what happened is offered, and, if this was in the works for weeks and weeks, no successor named. And they drop this bombshell, so to speak, right in the middle of the day when Kennedy story was relieving a whole lot of pressure on the stories of the "incompetent president no one like at all and his even more feckless House and Senate enablers." It could have waited. Something else is going on?

Many are guessing that.

Jane Hampsher does here -
Color me confused. Everyone on TV seems to be buying the line that the Goss resignation has been planned for weeks. No natural curiosity about the fact that it takes effect immediately, or that there is no replacement, or that he had a meeting scheduled this afternoon he didn't show up for. Not to mention the fact that ... the White House would've probably sacrificed its collective left nut to avoid stepping on a drunk Kennedy story.

But has the entire press corps turned into such a pile of humorless prudes that they can't connect the dots in the Brent Wilkes hooker scandal?
The hooker scandal?

There's a nice review of that from Josh Marshall here -
... The hookers in Hookergate are, of course, the sizzle. But there's a bigger story. It stems directly from the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal, which many had figured was over. But it's not. You may have noticed that while Duke Cunningham is already in jail and Mitchell Wade has already pled guilty to multiple charges, Brent Wilkes has never been touched. Wilkes is the ur-briber at the heart of the Cunningham scandal, you can see pretty clearly by reading the other indictments and plea agreements. Wade was Wilkes' protégé.

Now, on the surface one might surmise that the prosecutors are just taking their time, putting together their best case.

I hear different.

Wilkes has deep ties into the CIA. The focal point of those ties is to Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the man Porter Goss appointed to the number three position at CIA when he took over the Agency last year. Remember, Wilkes' scam was getting corrupt contracts deep in the 'black' world of intelligence and defense appropriations, where there's little or no oversight. Foggo was in the contracting and procurement field at the CIA. So you can see how he and Wilkes, who have been friends since high school, had plenty to talk about.

The CIA wasn't the only place Wilkes and his protégé Wade plied their corrupt trade. There were also in the mix contracting on the Bush Pentagon's extra-constitutional spying operations. And I am told that senior appointees at the DOD knew about their corruption but overlooked it.

Now, since the Cunningham scandal got under, and particularly of late, there's been a big tug of war between federal law enforcement and the CIA over whether to really go after Wilkes. Probably a little more specificity is in order there, folks at CIA in the orbit of Foggo and presumably Goss.

Now, how does Goss know Foggo?

That's how we get into the other part of this story - those 'hospitality suites', that moveable feast of food, poker and love, Brent Wilkes ran in Washington for maybe fifteen years. We hear that's how Goss got to be friends with Foggo, whom he later promoted to executive director of the CIA, the number three post at the Agency.

Now, last week, Goss denied he had attended any of Wilkes' parties. ... Foggo admitted attending the parties but claimed he'd never seen the hookers.

Now, corrupt contractors saucing up Agency officials and members of Congress to get contracts and free money. Hospitality suites where the saucing takes place. Hookers in the mix. It's going on for more than a decade, various members of the key committees in the mix. Goss, former member of one of those committees, appoints one of the key players in all this mess as the number three guy at CIA? The feds leaning hard on the limo company owner who probably knows all the details and already has a long rap sheet and can't afford another conviction?

There's a lot going on here, a lot we don't know, what's connected and what's coincidence. But this is the backstory. And why this story is likely to turn out to be a very big deal.
Is it? Even the editor of the Weekly Standard, William "Bill" Kristol, the public voice of the neoconservative movement, and one of the founding members of the Project for the New American Century that became the definers of what our foreign policy should be, was on Fox News saying to Shepard Smith that there must be something else going on (video here) -
KRISTOL: It wasn't done in a routine way. I don't think people - certainly people close to Goss did not expect this to happen. Senior congressmen and senators didn't expect this to happen. I'm not sure the White House expected this to happen. ... I do think this was sudden. It was unexpected. There will be more of a story that will come out. I don't know what it implies for the future of the agency and Goss' effort to shake up an institution, an institution that's very difficult to shake up. But I do not believe it was part of a long-planned -

SHEPHARD SMITH: How the heck could it have been? In a Bush White House world, things are lined up and they're put out in a sort of meticulous, controlled way. I can envision - if this had been planned in advance, there would have been almost an immediate announcement of a replacement, the hugs, the thank yous, probably a medal or something. Instead what we have now is a vacuum, and you have to wonder what could have gone boom like that to cause him, A) to tender the resignation and, B) for the President to accept it under these circumstances.

KRISTOL: Well you and I think alike, Shep. Either it's brilliant minds or suspicious minds thinking alike -

SMITH: It is just out of character.

KRISTOL: It looked that way to me. What was striking about the statement in the Oval Office with the President, he didn't say, "I will serve until my successor is confirmed," which is the usual practice. In the written statement, he says he intends to be there for a few weeks to help ensure a smooth transition, but implying he could well leave before his successor is confirmed by the United States Senate. So again, I think there were either serious disputes or some internal problem at the agency or some scandal conceivably involving an associate of Goss'. Who knows? Something that popped this week and that caused this sudden event this Friday.
It could be the FBI agents fanning out all over DC wanting to talk to hookers.

And there's this suggesting the key is this "Dusty" Foggo fellow, the low-level supervisor Goss lifted from obscurity to make him number three at the CIA -
As we've reported previously, the CIA's inspector general is looking into Foggo's oversight of contracts at the agency; NBC says the investigation includes allegations that Foggo steered a $2.4 million contract to Brent Wilkes, one of the contractors implicated in the Cunningham case. Wilkes and Foggo have been pals since college, and Foggo made the scene at - and even hosted some of - the contractors' poker parties.
Maybe it was just time to resign, before it all ended in an embarrassing prep walk. And it had to be done now, before everything came out. Yeah, it neutralized the wonderful another-drunk-Kennedy-driving-badly story, but perhaps there was no choice.

Maybe it's what the Wall Street Journal reports Saturday Morning, that the Friday bombshell resignation had something that came up, oddly, on Friday -
The agency also has been drawn into a federal investigation of bribery that has sent former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham to prison. Just this past week, the CIA confirmed that its third-ranking official, a hand-picked appointee of Mr. Goss, had attended poker games at a hospitality suite set up by a defense contractor implicated in the bribing of former Rep. Cunningham. Friday, people with knowledge of the continuing Cunningham inquiry said the CIA official, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, is under federal criminal investigation in connection with awarding agency contracts.
Odd. Meet a fellow at a decades long series of poker-plus stag parties run by shady contractors the guy has known since high school, promote him from obscurity to a top position where he manages all contracts, and stand back? And within the Post item at the top, this - "After Goss's announcement yesterday, Foggo told colleagues that he will resign next week."

This is a mess. And the managing editors all over lost their juicy another-drunk-Kennedy-driving-badly story. The man who ran the key agency keeping us safe from foreign threats by finding out what was going on in the shadowy corners of the world had to cut out, quickly.

But then, the younger Kennedy gets less attention, and his problems seem insignificant.

What a way to end the week.

Posted by Alan at 23:31 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006 23:34 PDT home

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