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Monday, October 31, 2005

The lies that lead to war

Iraq is merely the latest example of the US going to war under apparently false pretenses. In the debate leading up to the war against Iraq, the "mushroom cloud" fears were almost completely unfounded.

Ironically, of course, intelligence to challenge the claim was publicly available before the war. Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel prize winning Director of the IAEA, reported on March 7, 2003:
After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.
The IAEA conducted 281 inspections at 141 sites, examined the forged Niger documents, looked into the question of uranium importation and enrichment, looked at the importation of aluminum tubes and high-strength magnets, and interviewed key scientists and public officials.

Did the administration distort the evidence? Or, were the intelligence agencies completely and horribly wrong? A third possibility also exists: did some intelligence sources knowingly distort the evidence?

Don't dismiss the third alternative out of hand.

The work of an historian for the National Security Agency (NSA) has recently been disclosed by a non-governmental historian, revealing that NSA officers may have intentionally cooked the intelligence about a North Vietnamese attack on a US warship that never happened. This transgression was deliberate, but it was apparently designed to cover up honest mistakes of tradecraft. There had been an attack against US assets on August 2 and someone completely misinterpreted followup communiques about the first attack. The New York Times, October 31, 2005:
The N.S.A. historian, Robert J. Hanyok, found a pattern of translation mistakes that went uncorrected, altered intercept times and selective citation of intelligence that persuaded him that midlevel agency officers had deliberately skewed the evidence.

Mr. Hanyok concluded that they had done it not out of any political motive but to cover up earlier errors, and that top N.S.A. and defense officials and Johnson neither knew about nor condoned the deception.
The claim that the attack did not happen is now new. For some time, historians have been pointing out that the alleged second North Vietnamese attack on US destroyers, ostensibly on August 4, 1964, never happened. In 1988, for example, Admiral James Stockdale revealed in The Washington Post that he was a personal observer to the supposed incident -- and that it did not happen.

The new claim is that intelligence operatives intentionally relayed false information about an alleged threat (a second attack).

In reaction to the phantom attack, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the Lyndon B. Johnson adminstration used that to prosecute all-out war against North Vietnam. By 1969, the US had over half a million troops "in country."

As John Prados and others have previously discussed, the US conducted a covert operation on August 2, 1964, which provoked the initial North Vietnamese attack that day. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, however, later misleadingly told Congress that the covert operations were conducted by South Vietnamese forces. The US conducted additional covert raids on August 3-4, but the North did not respond with another attack on the US destroyer deployed near the Gulf.

The White House knew by August 5, 1964, that the evidence for the second attack was uncertain, at best. However, it appears that the initial US response was made in relatively good faith -- the Secretary of Defense and President thought the North Vietnamese had made a second attack.

Want another case? This one is harder to assess because the Pentagon data has not yet been declassified.

Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2002:
When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.

"It was a pretty serious fib," says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke the story....

Shortly before US strikes began in the Gulf War, for example, the St. Petersburg Times asked two experts to examine the satellite images of the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia border area taken in mid-September 1990, a month and a half after the Iraqi invasion. The experts, including a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who specialized in desert warfare, pointed out the US build-up – jet fighters standing wing-tip to wing-tip at Saudi bases – but were surprised to see almost no sign of the Iraqis.

"That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn't exist," Ms. Heller says. Three times Heller contacted the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis – offering to hold the story if proven wrong.

The official response: "Trust us." To this day, the Pentagon's photographs of the Iraqi troop buildup remain classified.
A House Armed Services Committee report also later concluded that Iraq had only 183,000 troops in 1990, less than half the number the Pentagon claimed it was facing at the time.

As some sources in the CSM story point out, the same people who lied (and/or were wrong) in 1990 were many of the same people talking about Iraq's threat in 2002. For example, the first Bush's Secretary of Defense in 1990-1991 was Dick Cheney.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Plausible update: the crime

Lambert at CorrenteWire notes that the Prosecutor strongly implies that something very bad may have happened to Valerie Plame's potential covert network. From the press conference:
[FITZGERALD:] And I’ve heard lots of people comment that many versions of the shield law would still have allowed us to subpoena the testimony we did in this case.

And I can tell you that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hogan, who said if there was any qualified privilege, whatever the hurdle was, no matter how high, it was exceeded in this case.
No matter how high? As Lambert writes,
"That, to me, reads like Plame’s outing got somebody killed.

There aren’t many hurdles higher, or crimes more serious, than murder."
Later, the Prosecutor added this:
I've heard lots of people comment that many versions of the shield law would still have allowed us to subpoena the testimony we did in this case.

And I can tell you that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hogan, who said if there was any qualified privilege, whatever the hurdle was, no matter how high, it was exceeded in this case.

And I think what people don't understand -- I understand why it is that newspapers want sources. And I read newspapers and I'm glad you have sources.

This is different. This was a situation where the conversations between the official and the reporter may have been a crime itself. It wasn't someone saying, "Hey, so and so is doing something really, really awful down the hall, but I'm going to get fired if I tell you."

If you're transmitting classified information, it's the crime itself.

But also the reporter is the eyewitness, and what I think people don't appreciate is we interviewed lots of people, very high officials, before we ever went to the reporters....

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed unanimously. The Supreme Court declined certiorari.

I think we ought to step back, take a deep breath and appreciate what the facts were here that are not the ordinary case before we rush into debates about balancing two very important things: the First Amendment and national security. And I don't take either lightly.
Even if Lambert is wrong about murder, something important is hidden in those classified filings. Valerie Plame's job status was classified, and apparently for good reason.

A commenter at Kevin Drum's Political Animal notes that Novak didn't just out Valerie Plame. He also outed her phony firm, Brewster-Jennings. On that subject, CBS News has this:
"If a CIA agent is exposed, then everyone coming in contact with that agent is exposed," says Jim Marcinkowski, a former CIA agent who trained with Plame at the top-secret Virginia facility known as "the Farm." "There is a possibility that there were other agents that would use that same kind of a cover. So they may have been using Brewster Jennings just like her," said Marcinkowski, referring to the fictional firm the CIA set up as her cover that also came out when journalists, including Robert Novak, disclosed it.
Another commenter also points out that Plame could have been a NOC if she occasionally traveled abroad -- even if she lived primarily in Washington since 1997.

Plausible update: the whisper campaign

Swopa at Needlenose suggests that Judith Miller may have been Novak's source. If you read the press conference transcript carefully, it notes that
Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true.

It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.
This strongly implies that reporters started talking to one other. Libby (though this sounds like classic Rove) launched a whisper campaign.

So how did Fitzgerald say it began?
In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.
Interesting.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The right remains in denial

Some on the right continue to argue that the leak of Valerie Plame's identity wasn't a crime because she wasn't a covert agent. Commenter chicagomac on RedState.org:
It is clear that, at least by sometime in January 2004 -- and probably much earlier -- Fitzgerald knew this law had not been violated. Plame was not a "covert" agent but a bureaucrat working at CIA headquarters.
Read the thread and lots of commenters continue to claim that Plame was not covert, and thus could not have been outed.

Here's the truth from the Libby indictment:
At all relevant times from January 1, 2002 through July 2003, Valerie Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified.
The indictment also says that the Vice President told Libby that Plame worked in the "Counterproliferation Division," which as Josh Marshall points out, is in the Operations Directorate. The work of the OD is so secret that there's virtually no discussion of it on the CIA webpage.

The CIA webpage is kind of ambiguous on OD's organization, but the Senate Intelligence Committee in its July 2004 report on Iraq made clear that the "Counterproliferation Division" is in OD.

The right's apologists completely ignore the part of the indictment that notes Libby's legal responsibilities for handling all classified information. In other words, it wouldn't matter if she was still a NOC or not:
LIBBY was obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order 13292), not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise to exercise proper care to safeguard classified information against unauthorized disclosure. On or about January 23, 2001, LIBBY executed a written “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” stating in part that “I understand and accept that by being granted access to classified information, special confidence and trust shall be placed in me by the United States Government,” and that “I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation.”
Conceivably, Libby could have been charged with treason under some readings.

Numerous commenters also refer to Fitzgerald's "2-year investigation" as if the entire process was an unreasonable waste of time, given the outcome.

Well, the grand jury investigation began in January 2004 and was nearly finished by May. Remember, Matt Cooper (Time) and Judith Miller (The New York Times) fought their subpoenas to testify, in May 2004. This meant the beginning of a legal process that went all the way to the Supreme Court as the reporters kept losing (the Court refused to intervene on their behalf in June 2005).

Cooper finally agreed to testify in July 2005 and Miller went to jail that same month. Miller agreed to testify on September 30, which means it took Fitzgerald only one month to finish the investigation after he secured her testimony. It took about six to eight onths of total investigative work to wrap up the entire business. A year or more was lost fighting a winning battle against the reporter targets of the leaks.

Beyond Libby?

To me, this is the key paragraph in the Libby indictment. This pertains to Count 1, obstruction of justice:
21. On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House (“Official A”) who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson’s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson’s trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson’s wife.
Who is Official A, other than one of Robert Novak's apparent sources?

If one reads the entire document, it is clear that Libby was not one of Robert Novak's sources. If he was, that would have been mentioned because the document discusses quite a number of people who Libby told, including journalists, that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA.

By the way, it also mentions that Libby had four different sources within the government confirming this fact for him.

I suppose it is possible that Libby admitted telling Novak, and therefore did not lie about it. However, the prosecutor then could have gotten to Libby's "state of mind" and considered an Espionage Act prosecution. As Fitzgerald said when using the "baseball analogy" in the press conference, the Prosecutor couldn't make such a charge because Libby was not telling the whole story and often lied.

So, who were Novak's sources? The paragraph I just quoted implies strongly that it is official A. Who is Official A? Multiple reports say Official A is Karl Rove. Rove's own attorney acknowledges that Rove remains in legal jeopardy.

Who is Novak's original second source? Most likely, it is one of the unindicted people who apparently testified against Libby -- but who are not mentioned by name in the indictment. Good guesses are John Hannah, David Wurmser or perhaps Fred Fleitz. If one or all of these men cut a deal with the Prosecutor, then they probably aren't going to be indicted. They may nonetheless lose their jobs in the administration once their testimony is required at trial.

Suffice to say that there are many unanswered questions.

As some bloggers and even The New York Times are noting, there's also good reason to believe that Fitzgerald is using Libby to pressure Vice President Cheney. The indictment mentions that Libby learned of Plame's status from the Veep, that persons in the Veep's office collectively discussed how to address media inquiries about the Wilson Niger trip, etc. I'll defer to Andrew Sullivan on this one.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Who is Duane Clarridge?

As I mentioned in my last post, reporter Richard Sale is linking Duane Clarridge with his "fine journalist...friend" Michael Ledeen and other operatives to the production of the Niger uranium forgeries.

Who is Duane Clarridge? AKA Dax P. LeBaron? Some astute bloggers have been asking that question since July, but I haven't seen many complete answers.

Let me try to make a good start.

Clarridge has certainly had an interesting life.

Clarridge is best known as "the CIA official who engineered the covert war in Nicaragua." He's the guy who mined the harbors! And the guy on the ground in Nicaragua who supported the contras against the Sandinistas.

That means Clarridge was knee deep in the Iran-contra affair. Indeed, after being indicted for lying to Congress (seven counts of perjury), Clarridge was pardoned by the current President's father. From the USIA, 1992:
The president also pardoned five other persons who already had pleaded guilty or had been indicted or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages investigation. They were Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs; former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane; and Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, and Clair George, all former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Even by Novak's ambiguous definition, Clarridge was an operative.

Like Ledeen, Clarridge lived and worked in Rome for awhile -- apparently participating in some way in the toppling of an Italian government. He was serving in Rome when the Pope was shot. He was also there when a Libyan aircraft crashed (filled with bullet holes) at about the same time an Italian airliner went down. There was some sort of coverup in Italy and Clarridge allegedly said Israel shot down the plane because it suspected France of shipping nuclear fuel to Iraq on the plane!

After his friend's career in government ended, Ledeen used his connections to get a job for Clarridge at General Dynamics.

Through his writings and interviews, Clarridge has been a major defender of US covert operations.

And, as you might expect given his neocon friends like Ledeen, Clarridge was a major booster of the Iraq war, years before any shots were fired.

As reported by the LA Times in 2004, Clarridge
"Since 1996 has been part of a group of conservative activists who supported and promoted Chalabi as a vehicle for overthrowing Hussein and installing a pro-American regime in Baghdad."
As I reported in my last post, Clarridge thought that the US could deploy a modest number of troops (5000) with trained INC forces and topple Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

General Anthony Zinni called this plan, "The Bay of Goats."

Since the war started, Clarridge has been to Iraq for months at a time and says the US population should get used to the idea that America will be there "for a generation."

My question: Is Clarridge a former CIA guy who, according to Sy Hersh's account, allegedly forged the Niger documents just to see if the administration would buy it? I'm skeptical that Clarridge would have done this out of anger at Cheney. They shared the same goals!:
Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking to me about the Niger papers in March, when I first wrote about the forgery, and said, “Somebody deliberately let something false get in there.” He became more forthcoming in subsequent months, eventually saying that a small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves.

“The agency guys were so pissed at Cheney,” the former officer said. “They said, ‘O.K, we’re going to put the bite on these guys.’ ” My source said that he was first told of the fabrication late last year, at one of the many holiday gatherings in the Washington area of past and present C.I.A. officials. “Everyone was bragging about it—‘Here’s what we did. It was cool, cool, cool.’ ” These retirees, he said, had superb contacts among current officers in the agency and were informed in detail of the sismi intelligence.

“They thought that, with this crowd, it was the only way to go—to nail these guys who were not practicing good tradecraft and vetting intelligence,” my source said. “They thought it’d be bought at lower levels—a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes. But the tactic backfired, he said, when the papers won widespread acceptance within the Administration. “It got out of control.”
I hope Fitzgerald resolves this one.

...that time in September...

The Italian papers and American blogosphere have been buzzing today about a number of prominent Italians who may have been involved in forging the Niger uranium documents. This includes the SISMI Chief Nicolo Pollari...and apparently the current Italian Ambassador to the US, Giovanni Castellaneta!

Josh Marshall:
Remember, too, that Pollari attended the secret Rome meetings in late 2001 arranged by Michael Ledeen and attended by Manucher Ghorbanifar, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode.

Pollari's efforts were apparently in concert with the man who is now the Italian ambassador to the United States. And, perhaps most explosively, Pollari apparently arranged a secret meeting with Stephen Hadley -- then deputy National Security Advisor, and now National Security Advisor -- to discuss the documents.

The alleged date was September 9th, 2002.
Remember that date, which has been confirmed by Laura Rozen:
Today's exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
September 9.

If UPI reporter Richard Sale is right, you may soon start hearing a lot of American names associated with the Niger forgeries:Via Pat Lang's blog:
Thanks to a letter of February, 2004 which Fitzgerald asked for and obtained expaneed authority, the Special Prosecutor is now in possession of an Italian parliament nvestigationi into the forged Niger documents alleging Iraq's interest in purchasing Niger uranium, sources said.

They said that Fitzgerald is looking into such individuals as former CIA agent, Duane Claridge (sic), military consultant to the Iraqi National Congress, Gen. Wayne Downing, another military consultant for INC, and Francis Brooke, head of INC's Washingfton office in an effort to determine if they played any role in the forgeriese or their dissiemination. Also iIncluded in this group is long-time neoconservative Michael Ledeen, these federal sources said.
You've seen Ledeen's name associated with the Niger forgeries before.

But note the names Duane Clarridge (more on him later) and Wayne Downing.

Check this out from the AEI webpage:
The War against the Terror Masters
How We Got There. Where We Are Now. How We'll Win.

Start: Tuesday, September 10, 2002 5:00 PM
End: Tuesday, September 10, 2002 7:00 PM
Location: Colonial Room, Mayflower Hotel
1127 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

5:00 Presentation: Michael A. Ledeen, AEI
Panelists: Duane Clarridge, Central Intelligence Agency (retired)
Wayne Downing, U.S. Special Forces (retired)
The event was so popular that even the UPI noted it.

So all the alleged forgers were in Washington just days before the President spoke to the UN about Iraq.

Oh, and Downing and Clarridge used to go around saying that the US could win a war in Iraq with 5000 troops. Pat Lang wasn't happy about that in Summer 2004.

The paleocons (guys like Lang and Sale) and the neocons are at war.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

China and the Bush Doctrine

On a number of occasions, I've blogged about international reactions to the Bush Doctrine.

Other states frequently admonish the administration for its over-reliance on military power and unilateralism. However, some politico-military factions within some states clearly think that it might be in their state's interests to emulate the "preemptive" strike strategy.

This post is about China's potential emulation. I was only recently directed to this op-ed piece by Rob Radtke, who is/was "vice president of policy and business programs for the Asia Society, a nonprofit educational organization promoting understanding of the Asia-Pacific region." It appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 2003:
China is calculating how successful use of preemption by the US in Iraq can be applied to Taiwan. In recent months, China has demonstrated considerable forbearance as Taiwan's fall elections approach. However, any action that moves Taiwan further from China or closer to de jure independence - for example increasing US arms sales or including Taiwan in a regional missile defense system - will trigger a strong reaction from Beijing.

Having set the precedent of preemption where vital national interests are at stake, the US can expect China to follow suit. China has always framed the Taiwan question as one of vital national interest and territorial integrity. For better or worse, the US has put preemption on the table as a tool of statecraft. China will use it if pushed.
FYI, Pete Dombrowski and I have a nearly-completed manuscript (originally presented in March 2005 at the International Studies Association meetings), which concludes that most other great powers, many middle powers, and key international organizations have generally embraced the American understanding of the threat of surprise attacks by terrorists armed with WMD and agree that some sort of preventative action might be needed to head off this action. Most of the rest of the world, however, favors multilateral authorization before preventive force might be employed.


Note: Apparently, I may have some new readers among the college debate community. Maybe this post will prove helpful to them in some small way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Progressive student think tank

Mother Jones recently had a brief note about the Roosevelt Institution, which is a progressive think tank organized by and for college students:
The Roosevelt Institution takes students’ ideas out of the filing cabinet and places them on the desks of reporters, civil servants, and politicians so that students’ ideas change public policy. One of the ways Roosevelt brings the innovative ideas of brilliant students to an audience capable of influencing public policy is through its national student research journal, the Roosevelt Review, a journal devoted to publishing high quality research, analysis, and policy proposals by graduate and undergraduate students. The Review aims to give policymakers access to underused student intellectual capital and, at the same time, leverage the Roosevelt Institution’s brand to build connections between students and policymakers with common interests.
Thanks to Google, I learned that the commenters on Volokh disparaged it, so maybe it is something to promote.

The think tank has received some press coverage, most prominently with an article in the LA Times. Here's what that paper reported about the Roosevelt Institution's first published work:
The first issue of the Roosevelt Review, available at http://rooseveltinstitution.org/roosevelt_review , includes articles on solar energy, military use of uranium, AIDS and genetic testing. The articles were selected by student editors and policy experts from among 200 submissions. Nine of the contributing authors are pursuing their bachelor's degrees; several others are in graduate school.
The story says that there are 120 chapters across the country, so there may be some that aren't linked at the main institutional webpage. Their aspirations are high, funding is low:
Each chapter has student-run policy committees dealing with such issues as economics, education, health, science and technology. Working with a faculty advisor, each committee collects student research for publication, formulates policy ideas and works closely with local community organizations to foster discussion about policy changes.

...The Roosevelt Institution has had a slow start financially, Wilhelmi said. So far it has survived with foundation grants and contributions made through direct-mail requests. Individual chapters have also hosted "grass-roots" house parties to help raise money.

"Funding is never totally sufficient," Wilhelmi said. "None of us are personally in debt anymore, but we could certainly use a significant amount of more support."
I've already started talking about this with colleagues and plan to mention it to some of our "best and brightest" students.

I wonder if anyone has mentioned this to George Soros?

Monday, October 24, 2005

2000

Yesterday, Matthew Bowles, a reporter for The Daily Tarheel student newspaper at the University of North Carolina, interviewed me about the meaning of 2000 dead Americans in Iraq.

The October 24 edition has the story. This is what I told him:
Rodger Payne, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said the casualty report probably will serve to reinforce some opinions that already have been shifting, rather than sparking a dramatic change.

Other events, such as the reinvigorated peace movement with Cindy Sheehan and critical comments from Republican senators, also are impacting public opinion, Payne said.
Bowles then references some polling data that back up my claim. I thought he might quote something from Senator Hagel, but the piece is short.

The story concludes with these paragraphs:
Still, Payne said policy changes might occur during the next year, given the continued decline in public support for the war and analysis of its expended and future costs.

"Between now and next November, the Bush administration will probably try to find some way to pull out tens of thousands of troops before the midterm election."
These quotes accurately reflected the substance of the interview, which doesn't always happen.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Did the wrong guy win?

It's been a long time since Something's rotten in the state of Denmark posted anything. 10 months.

Still...did the wrong guy win? Harper's revisits the question.

The National Election Data Archive seems to think it was likely:
The discrepancies between election results and exit poll results in the 2004 presidential race have not been explained and are consistent with significant vote count errors. Examination of limited election data shows irregular patterns of vote counts in Florida, Ohio, Washington, New Mexico, and other states....

On May 15th, our National Election Data Archive Project released a scientific paper, updated September 8th, that disproves the theory that the 2004 presidential exit poll discrepancies were caused by exit poll response rates that varied by party. This discredited hypothesis was proposed by the exit pollsters and used to dismiss the exit polls. This paper follows our earlier scientific paper released on March 31st, and summary on the 2004 election exit poll discrepancies.

It has been officially confirmed (by the exit pollsters themselves) that on election night the final set of exit polls showed John Kerry defeating George Bush by 3% of the popular vote and a clear majority of 316 electoral votes. Our statisticians analyzed Edison/Mitofsky's own explanation of their exit poll discrepancies, and found serious flaws in their argument. Exit polls have been used for years to detect corruption of official vote tallies - most recently in Ukraine.
Thanks to Thomas Leavitt at Seeing the Forest for the first link.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Instant Coffee

This will keep you awake.

Glenn Reynolds, October 22, 2005:
Saddam's on trial, Iraqis are counting ballots, and as noted above we seem to have shaken things up -- though I'd argue not enough yet -- throughout the mideast.

If Bush's effort here fails, it won't be because the antiwar critique of bloodthirstiness and warmongering is correct. It will be because Bush hasn't been vigorous enough in toppling governments and invading countries in the region. What happens with Syria in the next little while may answer that question.
Incredibly, Reynolds is arguing that the US might need to be busier "toppling governments and invading countries" in the Middle East. Given the recent UN revelations about apparent Syrian backing of the Hariri assassination in Lebanon, Reynolds is very strongly implying that the US should be making war on Syria -- without a public or congressional debate. And probably other states.

I literally don't know where to start.

Perhaps by noting that democracy is great. I'm a fan. Point conceded. I'm all for making it work better. For example, note that a presidential ("wag the dog"?) war against Syria might be an impeachable act, according even to Republicans.

So let's debate the means, not the ends.

Before beginning, however, I would like to mention the fact that the Iraq war was not about democratizing that state. This was a post hoc rationale for war when no WMD were found. Maybe the administration's position (and Reynolds') would seem more sincere if long-term military bases were renounced.

Setting aside that problem, is war the best method to democratize? Indeed, is there any evidence that war is a workable means by which to democratize a state? The most cost effective? The least counter-productive?

The US has spent $200 billion fighting in Iraq. If democratization of rogue and failed states is a priority foreign policy goal, couldn't the US have spent that cash in plenty of other places that might be potential sources of terror? How about giving more attention to Liberia, for example?

War itself is a threat to democracy. Since the "war on terror" began, the US has passed the Patriot Act, arrested and detained unknown hundreds (perhaps thousands) of innocent Muslems, and committed horrible war crimes at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.

Oh, and let's not forget that the Iraq war was launched by a President who received fewer votes than his opponent in the preceding election. The Congress never declared war. The war itself fairly clearly abrogated the UN Charter (and perhaps other international treaties), and the US constitution says that such Treaties are the "supreme Law of the Land."

I point out these latter facts because Reynolds is a law professor.

And because it seems hypocritical to push democracy on the rest of the world if the US isn't doing a particularly good job of it. How can other states be illegally forced to embrace the rule of law?

I won't go further with this critique of American democracy. The US political system is obviously dominated by monied interests, resulting in the election of those who support crony capitalism. No-bid contracts to Dick Cheney's Halliburton reflect reality fairly well.

On the subject of hypocrisy, how can the US credibly push democracy on Iraq when it so obviously embraces a close working relationship with quite worrisome autocrats in Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? During the cold war, the US refused to have all kinds of basic economic relations with the Soviet Union. But the US and its allies are highly dependent on oil from the corrupt middle eastern monarchies.

Would Reynolds make war on Iran? After all, many conservatives see it as the "big enchilada." But Iran is a bigger, far more potent state than 2002 Iraq. It hasn't been weakened by 12 years of UN sanction and wasn't already bombed by the US.

In other words, making war in Iran would make Iraq look like a picnic.

Face it, the Bush Doctrine was never really about democracy...and it's dead.

Really, really dead.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Right: Miers is Wrong

Recently, I set up a separate RSS reader to monitor some of the top conservative blogs. I decided that if I am going to continue blogging, I should perhaps think about confronting some bloggers on the right. The Bush administration has been a handy target, but this past year has been kind of difficult.

The Social Security debate wasn't that interesting to me, I'm not a lawyer or Supreme Court specialist, and blogs like firedoglake are doing a much better job of following the Traitorgate scandal that I ever could.

Iraq is a disaster, but there's only so much a guy can say about that. Isn't there?

So, where to turn?

Today, I read a post by Captain Ed on Captain's Quarters called "Bad News Turns Into Flood On Miers." In the course of analyzing the Miers nomination, the blogger points out some dubious payments made while she was heading the Texas Lottery, the unprecedented and enormous payments made by Bush to Miers' lawfirm in the 1998 Texas governor's race, and the possible damaging information she may have about the President's National Guard service.

Hmmm. I wonder if the payments are connected to the information?

An unnamed Republican Senator has apparently called for the withdrawal of the nomination and Captain Ed clearly agrees:
...the President has a responsibility to select nominees that meet minimal qualifications for the highest court in America in order to get that benefit of the doubt, and based on Miers' performance in the last couple of days, I highly doubt that Bush met that test in this one instance. If Clinton had named Bruce Lindsay to the Supreme Court with this kind of track record, the Right would have lined up for miles to shred both of them -- and we would have been correct to do so.
Maybe this explains something Josh Marshall reported today about a press release he received from Intrade, a company that runs a futures market on political issues. This is from the press release Marshall quotes:
"The Miers confirmation contract was trading at 92, meaning a 92% probability of confirmation last week. Early this week the contract slid to 64 then this morning with no warning droped to 20 in heavy trading", says Mike Knesevitch Communication Director at Intrade.
When I just checked (about noon), it was 37.

Well, at least Tom Delay is smiling. Democrats sure were stupid to think that an indictment might make news. Then again, even if his mug shot cannot be used in the '06 midterm elections, maybe a picture of a smiling Delay would be widely disseminated -- and thereby attract attention to the story?

Nah, never happen.

Who's going to notice a happy guy?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Twenty-two skidoo?

Off by one?

Start with the 2 most commonly mentioned people: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Karl Rove.

Add the 8 remaining members of WHIG: Nicholas Calio, Andrew Card, Stephen Hadley, Karen Hughes, Lewis Libby, Mary Matalin, Condi Rice, and James Wilkinson.

That's 10

From the rumor mill, add John Hannah (who apparently will plead guilty to a lesser count, or be granted immunity) and Dick Cheney.

12

Oh hell, let's just add in the entire list of administration officials alleged to be involved from the Think Progress list...but that's 12 more, 23 in all, and they're missing Calio.

Hmmm, 24.

I'd cut Colin Powell from the Think Progress list.

Oh, right, and the grand jury cannot indict the President.

22!

If Hannah (did you know he used to direct an AIPAC-affiliated group?) received an immunity deal, maybe we should add John Bolton or Fred Fleitz? Hannah was essentially tasked to Cheney from Bolton's office at State, where Fleitz worked.

Of course, we can still ask these questions of President Bush: "What did he know, and when did he know it?"

Don't you love the phrase, "unindicted co-conspirator."

Maybe I should have entitled this post "Catch 22."

NOLA and the US Constitution

My old friend Steve Griffin -- reward yourself 10 bonus points if you guessed he was a debater at University of Kansas -- is guest blogging at Balkinization. Steve apparently has some surplus free time this term because he usually teaches law at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Given that he is a scholar of constitutional law, it is not surprising that Steve's first post is entitled "Did the Constitution Fail New Orleans? (Part 1)." This is the question he's exploring:
Could the Constitution have something to do with Katrina? The important theme in the Newhouse story is the persistence of the eighteenth-century federal order. In this system, there are separate governments that do not share power. If coordinated action is required, everyone has a veto before the bargaining starts.
This is the short version of Steve's response to that question, with a teaser about his forthcoming followup post:
What Hurricane Katrina shows is that even after decades of experience with natural disasters, federal and state governments are still uncoordinated and unprepared. The reasons they are unprepared go to the heart of the constitutional order. We can do better in the future only by directly confronting the difficult task of adapting an eighteenth-century constitutional order to contemporary circumstances.

The federal structure is not the only causal link between the Constitution and the government’s inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. A separate problem lies in our system of representation, which I will discuss in a later post.
I commented, after welcoming him to the blogosphere:
Did you see the latest piece by Richard Clarke in The Atlantic Monthly? The former NSC member argues that the failure in NOLA obviously wasn't an unsurmountable coordination problem. After all, the response to Hurricane Frances in 2004 was much better:
"Imagine if, in advance of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of trucks had been waiting with water and ice and medicine and other supplies. Imagine if 4,000 National Guardsmen and an equal number of emergency aid workers from around the country had been moved into place, and five million meals had been ready to serve. Imagine if scores of mobile satellite-communications stations had been prepared to move in instantly, ensuring that rescuers could talk to one another. Imagine if all this had been managed by a federal-and-state task force that not only directed the government response but also helped coordinate the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other outside groups.

Actually, this requires no imagination: it is exactly what the Bush administration did a year ago when Florida braced for Hurricane Frances."
Of course, 2004 was an election year...so maybe they botched it because there wasn't a strong personal incentive to act?
I learned of Steve's blogging from a post by Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money. I got the Clarke link from tristero, blogging at digby's Hullabaloo.


Note: For those who haven't heard, Steve indicated in his last snail mail correspondence that his family's home suffered relatively minor damage after the hurricanes and was not flooded.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Communication Breakdown

Apparently, the media has a hard time getting its story straight when it's not simply reporting White House press releases.

As commenter E-mart points out, some news agencies say that Valerie Plame didn't work in Winpac. Was Libby passing along disinformation? Was someone passing along disinformation to Libby? Or was Judith Miller just wondering about Winpac after learning that "Flame" worked on wmd issues at CIA?

I'm checking firedoglake regularly now because the talented writers there are following the news stories about "Treasongate" very closely. Plus, at least one of the bloggers there seems to be a former prosecutor. That blog, and others, have reported that Miller didn't really have a security clearance.

Hmmm.

The blogosphere and the media are truly exploding with energy about the different and rapidly changing angles on this story.

For example, writers are not merely speculating that Dick Cheney is a target of the leak investigation. No, some already have him thinking about resignation! The most fantastic speculation concerns the identity of Bush's new Veep. While some are saying Condi Rice, my money would be on a politico from the congressional leadership -- or a Governor from a red state. The person would have to be totally clean on the selling of the Iraq war, and there aren't many in the administration who are.

Vice President Marc Racicot?

Other rumors concern the theory that someone in the administration has flipped and is volunteering evidence to the leak investigators. John Hannah's name has surfaced. Remember, Hannah's name already emerged in February 2004 as a possible leaker -- along with Irv Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Moreover, reporters are starting to turn on Judith Miller. Laura Rozen recalls that Miller didn't want to believe that the anthrax attacks were home-grown terrorism, and former Times colleague Barbara Crossette says Miller's oil-for-food stories were unsubstantiated.

Here's my contribution to these developments. Hannah not only worked in Cheney's office, he was apparently the point man in the Veep's office to receive Iraq intell info directly from the INC. From Newsweek:
For months, Cheney’s office has denied that the veep bypassed U.S. intelligence agencies to get intel reports from the INC. But a June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two "U.S. governmental recipients" for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, "defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed"; the info was then reported to, among others, "appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies." The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a "principal point of contact" for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number. The only other U.S. official named as directly receiving the INC intel is William Luti, a former military adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who, after working on Cheney’s staff early in the Bush administration, shifted to the Pentagon, where he oversaw a secretive Iraq war-planning unit called the Office of Special Plans.
Did you notice the way the Office of Special Plans figured in there too?

If Hannah has flipped, he might know a lot about the origins of the Niger uranium story.

This is getting good.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Now, who could it be?

While I was out of town, Judith Miller published her version of events in the Valerie Plame investigation. The New York Times also printed its long story about Miller's involvement in the investigation. Here's one interesting tidbit from the latter story:
On July 8, two days after Mr. Wilson's article appeared in The Times, the reporter and her source met again, for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, near the White House.

The notebook Ms. Miller used that day includes the reference to "Valerie Flame." But she said the name did not appear in the same portion of her notebook as the interview notes from Mr. Libby.

During the breakfast, Mr. Libby provided a detail about Ms. Wilson, saying she worked in a C.I.A. unit known as Winpac; the name stands for weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control.
So, before Robert Novak published his story, Miller had a name very much like Valerie Plame...who worked at CIA's shop specializing in weapons of mass destruction.

Does everyone remember the only time I've mentioned Winpac on this blog?

Bonus points for those who recall that John Bolton's chief of staff, Frederick Fleitz, ordinarily worked at Winpac. Bolton was one of the more famous people to visit Miller while she was incarcerated.

What an interesting coincidence.

This is a fascinating section from Miller's account:
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred.

Before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald asked me questions about Mr. Cheney. He asked, for example, if Mr. Libby ever indicated whether Mr. Cheney had approved of his interviews with me or was aware of them. The answer was no.

In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. During the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment "embedded" with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons.
Miller doesn't recall her other sources? "How convieeenient," as the Church Lady used to say.

If the Democrats take Congress in 2006, maybe we can watch a updated version of "Church Chat."

After all, there are so many questions to answer.

How would Miller know if Libby told Cheney that he was speaking to her?

Miller had a security clearance?

Really? After what happened in fall 2001?

I wonder who granted that? Some say Donald Rumsfeld himself.

Curious.

Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney worked together in the Ford administration, so those guys are supposed to be old pros.

Wait, they also worked together in the secretive Nixon administration.

Maybe they are old pros.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Oklahoma: Not OK?

I'm in Tulsa briefly and found out today about an Associated Press news story I completely missed. This occured about two weeks ago in Norman, OK, outside the Oklahoma University football stadium -- roughly during halftime of a game against Kansas State:
Joel Henry Hinrichs III died Saturday when explosives - made of hydrogen peroxide, not fertilizer - strapped to his body detonated while he sat on a park bench about 100 yards from the stadium.

Nobody else was injured, and FBI and university officials have said there was no indication he tried to get in the stadium or that he had any links to terrorism.
Remember "Black Sunday," the terror/disaster movie from the '70s?

The AP report notes that the student bomber "tried to buy fertilizer of the type used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing two days before he committed suicide." Representative Tom Cole says that the FBI told him that they do not know whether or not the student tried to enter the stadium. The AP story is a bit one-sided in that regard, since they just don't know.

Investigators found a good deal more explosive material in the bomber's apartment.

Combined with some other facts, this certainly led to some wild rumors. The bomber's roommate was Pakistani and he lived very close to a mosque -- something presumably rare in Norman, OK.

At first, some thought this might be international terrorism. Again, from the AP:
...some people incorrectly concluded early on that the Oklahoma City bombing was the work of a Middle Eastern terrorist.

"As we all now know, the person responsible was not someone from the Middle East..." the statement [from OU President and former US Senator David Boren] read.

Police led Hinrichs' roommate and three other Muslim students from a party after Saturday's explosion, Ashraf Hussein, president of the Muslim Student Association, has said. All were later released.
It was certainly an angle that was investigated:
Cole said he asked the agent specifically whether jihadist material was found in the apartment, which was widely reported on Internet sites. "He told me there was absolutely none - nothing that would suggest links to terrorist groups."
In any case, given that this occured so close to a stadium packed with 80,000 people, you'd think it would have made bigger news.

The entire tale reminds me just a little of the under-reported story from 2003 about William Krar.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

WHIGs

According to some bloggers and reporters, Plame-leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may be investigating the WHIG members in the Bush administration.

No, this isn't a reference to the early 19th century political party of Zac Taylor and Millard Fillmore.

WHIG stands for "White House Iraq Group." This was the small club of administration officials who in August 2002 started "selling" the Iraq threat to the general public (and perhaps indirectly then, to Congress).

This is an interesting development because this investigation could explode into an array of unpredictable directions. For example, the neocons in the administration are and were embedded in many of these positions. Moreover, there are real or possible links to the fabricated Niger documents, the "16 words" in the State of the Union address, and the AIPAC spy case.

Who were the WHIG members? Sourcewatch lists this membership: Nicholas Calio, Stephen Hadley, Karen Hughes, Lewis Libby, Mary Matalin, Condi Rice, Karl Rove, and James Wilkinson. Andrew Card may have played a key role in the formation of WHIG. Later, Dan Bartlett apparently helped spin the Yellowcake-from-Africa tale.

This political operation seemed to operate with a membership separate from the "Office of Special Plans," which was an independent intelligence agency within the Department of Defense established to analyze information about Iraq's alleged "threat."

However, it has long been reported the OSP fed information to WHIG (and to the White House and Vice President's office directly) in order to help spread the word about Iraq threats.

Who was in OSP, or contracted to help its operations? Apparently, Youssef Aboul-Enein, William Bruner, Doug Feith, Larry Franklin, Michael Ledeen (!), Harold Rhode, Michael Rubin, Abram Shulsky, and David Wurmser. William Luti was the DoD overseer.

To position OSP within the vast Pentagon bureaucracy, this graphic is very helpful.

OPS had clear ties to the Iraqi National Congress, as some individuals were very friendly with Ahmad Chalabi and crew. Both the WHIG and OSP had former members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Some of these people are represented by Benador Associates too.

Judith Miller is a "Connector" (see Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point) who can help someone like Fitzgerald piece all the clues together.

While this is merely a teaser of fairly overt connections, I'm guessing that several of the people I've mentioned in this post are going to be indicted in the next month or so.

Just sit back, wait a few weeks, and then enjoy the show!

This weekend, maybe, buy some popcorn.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

American priorities

The Congressional Research Service has recently (October 3) estimated that the Iraq war is costing about $6 billion per month.
DOD’s current monthly average spending rate is about $6 billion for Iraq, $1 billion for Afghanistan and $170 million for enhanced base security for the first nine months of FY2005. Compared to FY2004, those averages are 19% higher for Iraq, 8% lower for Afghanistan, and 47% lower for base security.
That works out to about $197.3 million per day, fighting in Iraq.

According to CNN, the US has offered $50 million to aid reconstruction and relief in Pakistan, after the devastating earthquate there that killed more than 40,000 people and left 3 million people homeless.

My conclusion? America's priorities are seriously screwed up.

If they were honest, I think the current occupants of the White House would agree.

George W. Bush, October 6, 2005:
If the broader Middle East is left to grow in bitterness, if countries remain in misery, while radicals stir the resentments of millions, then that part of the world will be a source of endless conflict and mounting danger, and for our generation and the next.
The White House's Progress Report on the Global War on Terrorism, September 2003:
Many terrorist organizations exploit to their advantage conditions of poverty, social disenfranchisement, unresolved political and regional disputes, and weak state structures.
National Security Strategy of the United States, September 2002:
Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.
Bush, November 10, 2001, radio address:
In our struggle against hateful groups that exploit poverty and despair, we must offer an alternative of opportunity and hope.
Note: poor countries were already calling for much greater aid from wealthy countries, even before the latest natural disaster. The current debt burden of the poor countries means that they transfer $230 billion annually to developed nations.

As I blogged earlier this year, the gap between promised assistance and actual foreign aid is about $130 billion per year.

This isn't small change; I'm discussing hundreds of billions of dollars that could be going to the poor, that is actually going to the rich.

I know that sounds a lot like domestic tax policy, but the world's poor are really, really poor -- hungry, homeless, destitute. The latest UN Development Report has the latest facts and figures.

It's a global scandal -- and terrible foreign policy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Scholarly highs and lows

Thomas C. Schelling has won the 2005 Nobel prize in economics, sharing it with Robert J. Aumann, "for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

During my first semester in the Government and Politics doctoral program at Maryland (long before Schelling would leave Harvard for College Park), I read his Strategy and Conflict (1960) and Arms and Influence (1966).

What great books!

Hardly an academic day goes by without my being influenced by the ideas in those books. In truth, I use some of Schelling's ideas in my everyday life, thinking through logical places to meet lost family members, or formulating bargaining strategies with children.

My copy of Strategy and Conflict is a hardback, which I purchased quite cheaply at a thrift shop in Prince George's county. Someone who used to be a defense policy wonk for the Congressional Research Service had unloaded many of his like-new books and I bought a lot of them for a very low price. It was one of the best investment decisions I've ever made.

I was also pleased that the Nobel committee awarded the Peace Prize to Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

ElBaradei has a doctorate in international law from NYU, and was for six years an Adjunct Professor at NYU Law School, so he's a scholar as well as a diplomat.

If only these highs were the only news to report.

As many readers may already know, blogger and IR scholar Dan Drezner was denied tenure by the University of Chicago Political Science Department. This was unfortunate news, certainly, but Drezner has an impressive record and will find another great job.

Finally, my colleague and friend Paul Weber, who as Department Chair was integral in establishing the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, has died. I offer my most sincere condolences to his family.

Paul will be greatly missed by his large circle of friends, colleagues and former students. Paul had a great sense of humor, was a dedicated servant to the university and community, and treated his colleagues with grace and respect.

I have many fond memories of my interactions with Paul over the years. At work, he elevated me to the chair of the Grawemeyer Committee. For my spare time, he shared season basketball tickets with me; I couldn't really afford and certainly didn't want the football tickets that the athletic department sold as a package with the hoops tix. Paul once convinced me to speak to his son's middle school class about the UN. Now, father and 25-year old son have coauthored a forthcoming book.

Paul, coincidentally a University of Chicago PhD, often reminded me that he came to Louisville decades ago thinking that he would be here for only a short time before finding another job elsewhere. Paul was a man of faith and I certainly hope that he's finally found that better place.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Reality check

Hey, the President mentioned Osama bin Laden last week! Indeed, Bush referenced bin Laden by name five times in his speech to the National Endowment for Democracy on October 6.

This bragging point caught my eye:
Overall, the United States and our partners have disrupted at least ten serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th, including three al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States. We've stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States, or infiltrate operatives into our country.
The 15 plots are summarized on this fact sheet.

Was this list, er, grounded in reality? Let's discuss the US cases since those are closer to home, meaning we should be able to verify them and they are of greatest concerns to Americans.

Well, one of the three "threats" in the US is the Jose Padilla case, which automatically undermines credibility of the President's claim. The "imminent threat" from Padilla was about on par with Iraq's WMD.

Thanks to RJ Eskow at skippy, I've seen the LA Times rundown:
The White House acknowledged that many of the plots cited by Bush were based on previously known information. But it would not comment on whether Bush and his administration had claimed credit for thwarting terrorist plots in the United States that, in reality, had not risen to the level of a "serious" operational plot at all, as some federal counter-terrorism officials maintained.

A case in point, the U.S. counter-terrorism authorities said, is the alleged plot that included the Library Tower.
In regard to that particular attack, the newspaper notes that authorities "said that, at best, the alleged plot was something that had been discussed but never put into action."

Plot stopped? Hmmmm. Sounds like strike two.
The White House refused to provide additional information on a third U.S. plot on the list, which it said involved suicide airline attacks on the East Coast. Counter-terrorism officials said they were not certain what the White House referred to.
We'll have to wait, eh?

BTW, it appears that the administration knows that it cannot really sort out a real threat....so it passes the buck!

This looks to me like derelection of duty and leadership:
"Our job is to gather intelligence and pass it on to local authorities," Mr. Bush told reporters in a White House picture-taking session with Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany of Hungary. "And they make the judgments necessary to respond.
I'm sure that's what Americans want, local cops and elected officials deciding how to interpret information from foreign intelligence. It might work for NYC, but what about Toledo? Or Peoria? Or Tulsa?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Turn Turn Turn

Have you read Scooter Libby's September 15, 2005, letter to Judith Miller, who was at that point still incarcerated? It closes with this:
"You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover—Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work—-and life. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers."
A lot of bloggers have tried to make heads or tails of the passage.

Is this just more of Libby's notorious purple prose?

It is based on fact.

Or, is it a code, perhaps written to look like purple prose?

As Robert Novak, of all people, reported on September 22, a bunch of rich conservatives recently gathered in Aspen, Colorado, to talk policy...and bash President Bush!
For two full days, George W. Bush was bashed. He was taken to task on his handling of stem cell research, population control, the Iraq war and, especially, Hurricane Katrina. The critics were no left-wing bloggers. They were rich, mainly Republican and presumably Bush voters in the last two presidential elections.

The Bush-bashing occurred last weekend at the annual Aspen conference sponsored by the New York investment firm Forstmann Little & Co. Over 200 invited guests, mostly prestigious, arrived Thursday night (many by private aircraft) and stayed until Sunday...They faithfully attended the discussions presided over by PBS's Charlie Rose on such serious subjects as "global poverty and human rights" and "the 'new' world economy." The connecting link was hostility to President Bush.
Hmmm.

The Aspens have turned in a cluster, have they?

And maybe it is their neocon roots that connect them?

Interesting.

Miller, by the way, authored a book on biological weapons and received one of the (hoax) anthrax letters in fall 2002.

Put that with her false reporting about WMD in Iraq and she's had a busy decade already.

I'm not 100% sure why Libby thinks there will be biological threats to report this fall, though I guess he could just be thinking of the bird flu.

In any case, I think one of the most interesting theories is that Libby was telling Miller it was OK to turn on someone (Bush? Rove? Bolton?) because everyone was turning already. People connected at the roots, like she and he, would live long and prosper.


Notes: big money conservatives have long had a thing for Aspen.

Some people argue that Bolton is not a neocon, and others report that he is actually "a libertarian who despises the neocons."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Miers

I don't have much more to say about the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

I'm guessing this was the President's logic behind the selection:

How many lawyers went to a law school at least as good as SMU? Thousands and thousands.

How many also became partners at relatively big law firms? Thousands

How many also became state bar association presidents? Hundreds

How many also directed a state agency like the Texas Lottery? At least dozens

How many also served in the White House? Not many

How many also served as George W. Bush's personal attorney? One
Bingo! We have a winner.

Incidentally, this is the funniest thing I've read so far about the appointment. Read it now!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The GWOT has bounds!

Jeffrey Record made news in late 2003 and early 2004 when his monograph "Bounding the Global War on Terror" was published by the Army War College.

Record argued that the Bush administration had conflated all sorts of threats -- terrorism, WMD proliferation, rogue states, non-democracies, etc. -- and had thus created an enormous enemy in the GWOT that the US could not reasonably fight. Record concluded that "the war on terrorism--as opposed to the campaign against al-Qaeda--lacks strategic clarity, embraces unrealistic objectives, and may not be sustainable over the long haul."

As Juliette Kayyem pointed out yesterday, the Bali attacks this past weekend demonstrate that the GWOT now has clearer boundaries:
So, the fact that what is likely the same terrorist group (Jemaah Islamiyah), targetting the same area, against likely Western tourists, almost exactly two years after a previous attack would seem significant, in many respects. And it is. But not because it tells us anything new about terrorism. It really doesn't; it is, as we have known, alive and well. But, because it suggests that this Administration's capacity to embrace all terror, all the time may be spent. There is simply no political or public support to make the Bali attacks our own (as Bush did two years ago).
She says that Iraq has, of course, changed the context for the US.

Record argued that Iraq demonstrated the folly of the administration's GWOT.

Casey and his Band of Brothers: No Sunshine

General George Casey, commander of the multinational force, March 8, 2005:
The average insurgency -- the average counterinsurgency in the 20th century was about nine years, so it takes time to snuff out the insurgency.

...In terms of level of attacks, I mean, we are dealing with an insurgency that has sufficient ammunition, weapons, money and people to maintain a level of attacks of between 50, 60 a day in the Sunni area. They've demonstrated that capability. And that's not -- as I said, that's not something that we're ultimately going to defeat militarily. The people that are supporting and doing these attacks are going to be drawn into -- hopefully, drawn into the political process, and that will take some of the air out of the insurgency.

So it's a combination of the political, the military, the economic, and the communications that's ultimately going to defeat this.
Nine years!

And no reason to think the US can defeat them militarily.

Tip: The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. Casey apparently said much the same thing in testimony to Congress last week, though he added this tidbit.
"And there is no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time to deal with," Casey said,
Great.

Air Force General Richard Myers added this:
"I don't think this committee or the American public has ever heard me say that things are going very well in Iraq," said Myers, speaking a day before he retires from his post. "This is a hard struggle."
Again, great.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Cronies of W

So, Harriet Miers is the new Supreme Court nominee. Back in November, I blogged about "The Insiders" like Alberto Gonzales, Condoleezza Rice and Margaret Spellings who were moving up in the second term of George W. Bush's administration. This nomination reflects more of the same thinking:
Harriet Miers, who was Bush's personal lawyer in Texas and recently the President's deputy chief of staff, is taking over for Gonzales as White House Counsel.

This "insider game" has various implications, some obvious and some less clear. For example, it means that Bush is not looking outside the administration for new ideas and talent. He is rewarding loyalty and personal connections.
On July 1, I predicted that Bush would replace Justice O'Conner with a female conservative, though I didn't mention Miers as a candidate.

Oh, while we're talking about Bush's cronies, The Left Coaster has a very disturbing set of images that suggest new Chief Justice Roberts may have been a very bad boy during the Florida recount.

Time to fire up the DVD player.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Distractions

My favorite team has been horrible all season. Indeed, yesterday, the KC Royals lost for the 105th time this year, which is a new team record. And they still have two more chances to break the record!

On the bright side, they just signed their top draft pick from this summer and will have the #1 pick in the entire draft next year. This year's pick was #2.

In any case, I'm a baseball fan, and I was living in Boston for the first two months of the season. Thus, I'm trying to watch a great deal of the Red Sox series with the Yankees. I'd like to watch Cleveland as well, but their games do not seem to be available.

As I type in the second inning of game #161 of the season, the Yankees have already scored 5 runs behind Randy Johnson, so the Sox could be in trouble. Johnson, however, seems to be having some control problems and he's clearly not the dominating Cy Young winner of the past. At least not today.

Have I mentioned recently that the Yankees are evil?