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Now as youve probably

Now, as you've probably heard, Speaker Hastert and Sen. Frist have called for an investigation into the Washington Post story which revealed the existence of secret interrogation (torture) facilities the United States is running in Eastern Europe.

No doubt, this will spawn a wave of complaints that this is the logical result of the investigation of the White House's effort to betray a serving covert CIA operative as a way of attacking her whistle-blowing husband.

We're all supposed to go chasing our tails now, agonizing over how to distinguish between these two cases.

But actually, let's not.

It was wise of Pat Fitzgerald not to seek indictments for the mere disclosure of classified information, both on the basis of prudence and also the questionable interpretation of the law that defines such disclosures as illegal.

The most obvious way to distinguish these two cases is to observe that Congress, in its wisdom, chose to make this particular sort of disclosure a felony, different in kind rather than degree from all others.

The prosecutor apparently did not believe or does not yet believe that he has enough evidence to prosecute anyone under that law. Instead, he indicted Libby for repeatedly, and it seems unambiguously, lying to investigators and seeking to obstruct the investigation in an effort to shield the vice president, who was certainly party to the effort.

Setting aside the legal particulars, we can observe the difference between betraying the identity of own of the country's own spies as a tool of government policy and revealing information about government policy to the press.

A disntinction with no grey areas? No. But life is built on distinctions reasonable people are forced to make every day.

What we have here is an administration under the sway of men with lawless and authoritarian tendencies. Betraying one of the country's own spies to cover up revelations about dishonest actions in leading the country to war, attempts to squelch the press to hide government policy of supporting torture. These actions are all cut from the same cloth: cover-ups and secrecy to hide lies and dishonorable acts, all backed by force and disregard for the law.

Now it seems Sen. Lott is telling reporters he thinks the leaks came from Republicans, which is at least one more sign that there are a growing number of Republicans more interested in their country's honor than in the Cheney gang's governance by violence and lies.

Let them investigate Republicans, Democrats; let them take it before judges. Whatever. Lies beget coverups which beget more law breaking into a spiralling cycle. The executive is in corrupt hands. Nothing will change till that does.

As those of you

As those of you who are TPMCafe regulars already know, we're hosting a forum this week at TPMCafe Book Club on former Clinton National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling's new book, The Pro-Growth Progressive.

More broadly we've set this Book Club up as an exchange on Democratic economic and trade policy.

Which direction for Democrats? Particularly as we move toward the 2006 and later the 2008 election cycles. A neo-Clintonite economic policy or a more populist approach with greater skepticism about the generation-long move toward global trade liberalization.

We've put together a group that, I think, captures the range of opinions and viewpoints now on offer -- Sperling, Alan Blinder, Bob Borosage, Jason Furman, Jamie Galbraith and David Sirota. TPM regulars like Matt Yglesias, Ed Kilgore and others will probably be chiming in too.

So stop by, let us know what you think, and join the discussion. The sparks are already flying and we expect more.

Stop the presses Sen.

Stop the presses! Sen. Rockefeller raises the possibility that investigation investigators might need to investigate!

Here's a Walter Pincus article from tomorrow's Post which describes a basic disagreement shaping up between how Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking member on the senate intel committee, and Chairman Roberts (R-KS) want to pursue "phase two" of the investigation into the Iraq WMD debacle. "Phase two", remember, is the part of the investigation where they'll look at how the administration used or misused intelligence.

Roberts' approach is to take the administration statements and line them up against intelligence reports. If they match up, no problem. As Pincus writes ...

Under last year's agreement [which Roberts wants to follow], it was unclear whether the committee would consider whether there were contradictory or competing intelligence reports circulating at the time public statements were made that could call them into question, or whether the panel would simply check to see whether each statement could be backed up by at least one piece of intelligence.

For example, in a Sept. 8, 2002, appearance on CNN, Condoleezza Rice said Iraq was receiving "high-quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." At the time, there were serious disagreements within the intelligence community over whether those tubes were meant for centrifuges -- which can be used to extract weapons-grade uranium -- or whether they were meant for anti-aircraft rockets, which proved to be the case. If it could be shown that there was at least one intelligence report that substantiated Rice's statement, that might be enough to justify her statement under terms of the panel's earlier agreement.


Rockefeller has a different approach ...

Under Rockefeller's desired approach, Rice could be interviewed to ask her what intelligence she based her statements on, and whether she was aware of the contrary views.


If you're going to investigate how policy-makers used intelligence, can there be any serious pretense that you're conducting a serious investigation if interviewing the policy-makers themselves is off-limits?

And another question. If what Roberts wants is really closer to last year's agreement than what Rockefeller is now pushing for, what was Rockefeller thinking last year when he agreed to it?

It seems the presidents

It seems the president's defenders have fallen back on what has always been their argument of last resort -- cherry-picked quotes from Clinton administration officials arranged to give the misleading impression that the Clintonites said and thought the same thing about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as the Bushies did.

Not true.

But even arguing on this ground understates the full measure of administration mendacity in the lead up to the war since it ignores half the story. WMD was only half the administration equation for war. The other half was Iraq's alleged ties to Islamist terrorist groups like al Qaida and including al Qaida. On top of that, of course, was the big enchilada, the Cheney favorite, those frequent and intentionally ambiguous suggestions that Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

The administration has always been able to fall back upon the fact that as much as they hyped and exaggerated the evidence of Iraqi WMD, the folks in the intelligence community made plenty of mistakes on their own.

But the claims about Iraqi ties to al Qaida were always USDA-approved Grade-A crap.

That's where the most blatant political pressure on analysts happened. And that's where Doug Feith's operation at the Pentagon and its pipeline to Vice President Cheney's Office played their most nefarious role "stovepiping" nonsense about a grand Osama-Saddam axis.

Yet, that story has not gotten much of any scrutiny or investigation.

Whether it was lies or just reckless disregard for the truth. They should be held accountable.

A weird and very

A weird and very disturbing story.

The Hill reports that Emilia DiSanto, chief investigator for Finance Committee Chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, was accosted outside her home last Wednesday evening and beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. The article says she was later "treated for significant upper-body injuries [and] nine staples were needed to close her head wound."

Investigators seem to believe that the attack was related to her work on the hill.

On Tom DeLays latest

On Tom DeLay's latest lawyering to get off the conspiracy charges on a technicality or preserve his right to trial by a jury of fellow conservatives (noted here), TPM Reader CM chimes in as follows ...

Ronnie Earle should simply ask the judge, "If Travis County is too liberal for DeLay to get a fair trial, then why is it that 2 of 3 U.S. Representatives representing Travis County are Republicans? Why are both state school board members representing Travis County Republicans? If you lump in State Senators and State Reps, too, you get a total of 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats." I'd say it looks more than fair to Republicans.

Hoist him on his own petard, perhaps...


Good point.

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