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Key passage from todays

Key passage from today's NSA article in the Post (emphasis added) ...

The NSA activities were justified by a classified Justice Department legal opinion authored by John C. Yoo, a former deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that congressional approval of the war on al Qaeda gave broad authority to the president, according to the Times.

That legal argument was similar to another 2002 memo authored primarily by Yoo, which outlined an extremely narrow definition of torture. That opinion, which was signed by another Justice official, was formally disavowed after it was disclosed by the Washington Post.


Another John Yoo special.

After decades in captivity

After decades in captivity at CNN, Robert Novak will now be allowed to return to his natural habitat.

Novak starts at Fox News next month, reports the Journal (sub.req.)

Patriot Act renewal supporters

Patriot Act renewal supporters failed to get 60 votes to end debate today in the Senate. Ergo, for now, Sen. Feingold and the rest of those who want to force revisions to the Patriot Act have won.

Remember, Sen. Feingold is blogging on the senate battle over the Patriot Act exclusively this week at TPMCafe's Table for One.

Ahhh what a fun

Ahhh, what a fun way to start the day, with the coming together of two of my favorite beats -- OpEd payola and the Abramoff scandal.

In Business Week this morning, Eamon Javers reports that two noted conservative columnists -- Doug Bandow of Cato and noted Social Security privatization advocate Peter Ferrara -- both accepted cash payments from Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to his clients.

The revelation has caused Bandow to resign from Cato. But Ferrara, who is now at the Institute for Policy Innovation, says "I do that all the time," Ferrara says. "I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future."

Now, I used to follow the OpEd payola story pretty closely. (Here are a few examples of posts on the topic from previous years.) And I have to say that when Ferrara implies that this is a common practice, boy is he right, particularly on the right. There are even shops in DC that specialize in ginning up bogus 'man on the street' opeds which they then get placed on major oped pages. Another area where my reporting showed this to be very common was among foreign lobbyists, a number of whom had ex-foreign service officers and various other foreign policy bigwigs on retainer to write opeds advocating on behalf of their clients. Actually, 'write' overstates the matter. The lobbying firm writes the OpEd and the expert signs it.

It hadn't occurred to me that Abramoff dabbled in this racket. But now that I think about it, I can't imagine why it hadn't. If he had these two on the payroll, there must be many, many more.

Now, before I end this post, let me make one important distinction. Everybody knows that most major politicians have speechwriters. And we don't see anything untoward about that. When a major pol writes an OpEd most people understand that either a speechwriter or policy staffer either helped craft the words or got the ideas from the pol and wrote the piece which the pol then signed. Again, I don't think that shocks anyone. When I said there are shops in DC which specialize in this sort of thing, this 'speech writing' sort of OpEding is not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is when, say, the American Federation of Hot Dog Manufacturers wants to beat some new regulation. So they hire a shop in DC which then goes out and finds some sidewalk hot dog vendor and offers to pay him a couple grand if he'll pretend to be the author of an OpEd saying how the new regs will drive his hot dog stand out of business. They then shop it to one of the conservative OpEd pages which are known to be an easy mark for this sort of scam.

Like I said, there are shops in DC who specialize in that sort of thing.

President Bush says Congress

President Bush says Congress saw the same intelligence he did in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. So Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked the non-partisan Congressional Research Service to look into the matter and report back whether or not what the president said is true.

They reported back today. The verdict: not true.

Read it yourself.

New Hampshire phone-jammer Tobin

New Hampshire phone-jammer Tobin guilty on two counts, say our sources.

Late Update: We've got this triple sourced. So I think this one's a done deal.

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