They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Bush's Leak

The Washington Post gives the rundown on yesterday's revelation that Pres. Bush authorized the leaking of certain information from the classified National Intelligence Estimate. On the central question of whether Bush can do such a thing, R. Jeffrey Smith writes:

Legal scholars and analysts said yesterday that the president has the authority to selectively declassify intelligence reports But they also said it was highly unusual for senior officials at the White House to take such an action so stealthily, without notifying Cabinet officials or others in the administration, including the CIA authors of the National Intelligence Estimate.


(WaPo)

The Post has another piece confirming the administration's logic on the leak that's not a leak:

A senior administration official, speaking on background because White House policy prohibits comment on an active investigation, said Bush sees a distinction between leaks and what he is alleged to have done. The official said Bush authorized the release of the classified information to assure the public of his rationale for war as it was coming under increasing scrutiny.


(WaPo)

Other coverage: NYT, KR, AP.

Read More →

Nina Easton is the author of the seminal Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Ascendacy, which told the story of five conservatives who played a major role shaping the modern conservative movement (they were the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, former Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), Clint Bolick, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist). We talked with her last week about two of her gang, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, and their friend Jack Abramoff, who didn't make the cut.

TPMm: I wanted to start out talking about the work you did on the book. But most of all we at TPMmuckraker concentrate on Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed. So I'd like to first ask you why you decided to pick the five you did for the book, and why Abramoff didn't make the cut.

NE: I chose the five for very specific reasons. The first was I wanted each of them to represent a different piece of the movement, so I chose Ralph Reed, for example, to represent the religious right, Grover Norquist as a tax activist, Bill Kristol as the neoconservative Straussian. Each one of them represents a different piece of the movement, and then they also had to be institution builders.

And this is why Jack Abramoff at the time, when I started the book in '96, he wasn't - he was a lobbyist, he wasn't a big movement-conservative-player at the time. So I chose movement-conservative-players who were institution builders, who looked like they would be on the scene for a long time. Like I said, he was a lobbyist.

TPMM: Do you think in retrospect he was more of an institution builder than he seemed like he was?

Read More →

Following up on recent revelations, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has written to Pres. Bush, asking for a full accounting on the White House's "systematic abuse of the national security classification process for political purposes."

Read the letter here.

I've written more about sex predators in the last 24 hours than I ever wanted to in a lifetime. And really, the story of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle's arrest two nights ago seems more like a personal tragedy than a political problem. But there's an unexamined angle to it that bears a closer take.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) mentioned it when he announced that his Homeland Security committee would hold a hearing on hiring and security checks at DHS, prompted by Doyle's arrest: the issue isn't just that pedophiles shouldn't work in government because they're pathological and creepy. They are an inherent risk to the vast apparatus of classification and secrecy that is supposed to protect our national security.

Read More →

He just gets classier and classier.

Yesterday, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) suggested that his opponent, Joe Sestak, was wrong to keep his daughter in a Washington, D.C. hospital during her cancer treatment - he should have brought her to a hospital in Pennsylvania, he said.

After a firestorm of criticism, Weldon's campaign chairman, Michael V. Puppio Jr., offered an explanation today... Joe Sestak tricked Weldon into talking about it:

But Puppio insisted that Weldon did not intend to make an issue of where Alexandra Sestak was treated.

"Any discussion of Mr. Sestak's daughter was initiated by the Sestak campaign," Puppio said.


Read the article - see how Weldon was so craftily and despicably lured in to seeming like a jerk.

Over at TPM, Josh asks whether President Bush's declassification of the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate was a one-off, a whim, rather than an official declassification.

Patrick Fitzgerald's characterization of Scooter Libby's testimony makes clear that this declassification was an inside deal that only Bush, V.P. Cheney, and Libby knew about:

According to defendant [Libby], at the time of his conversations with [Judith] Miller and [Matthew] Cooper, he understood that only three people - the President, the Vice President and defendant - knew that the key judgments of the [National Intelligence Estimate] had been declassified. Defendant testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials - including Cabinet level officials - were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003.

Since we began our round-the-clock, if-it-moves-blog-it coverage of the Cynthia McKinney cop-punching scandal, we've been getting the same question from our readers: Do you mean to tell me the security of our nation's capitol depends on a system of dinky lapel pins?

The short answer: Yes. In an era of retinal scanning, five-fingerprint ID, facial recognition technology and all the rest, anyone wearing a dinky lapel pin can breeze past guards within the Capitol complex.

Hardly able to believe it ourselves, we called the House Sergeant at Arms' office. They're the ones who control the pin operation. We got an aide on the line who wouldn't be named -- the Sergeant forbids the staff from speaking with the press -- but who offered to help. Here's what we learned:

Read More →

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) thinks it was inappropriate for his opponent to bring his daughter to Washington so she could receive cancer treatments.

But it was okay for Weldon to bring his daughter to Washington to make money off her dad? Perhaps now is a good time to remind everyone of Weldon's special relationship with his daughter.

The LA Times broke the story back in 2004 that Weldon's daughter Karen, then in her late twenties, ran a lobbying firm that was raking in approximately $1 million a year - and by some strange coincidence, her three main clients all had developed a relationship with her father, Curt.

The clients? There was:

-- "a plum $240,000 contract to promote the good works of a wealthy Serbian family that had been linked to accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic." Weldon and his daughter worked, without any apparent success, to get them visas.

-- a Russian aerospace manufacturer who paid Karen Weldon's firm $20,000 per month to promote its technologies, which included its "flying saucer." Her firm also was to get " a 10 percent finder's fee if the company '[struck] a deal from a lead supplied'" by them. That little bonus had to be taken out of the subsequent contract, however, when they realized that it was illegal for a lobbyist to take a cut of a government contract. Weldon worked hard to win a contract for the firm.

-- a $500,000/year contract from a Russian natural gas company called Itera International Energy Corp. to "'create good public relations.'" She won the contract shortly before her father held a dinner at the Library Congress to honor the company's chairman.

Weldon needs to search harder for that moral high ground.

Scoops are flying about how Bush and Cheney selectively authorized "Scooter" Libby to leak pieces of classified information to the press, in order to make their pre-war claims look good.

But Libby's role was even more extensive than a leak here and a leak there. The court documents show Libby says Cheney made him de facto press secretary for the uranium issue -- giving "on the record" statements, and talking on "background" (that means he doesn't get named) to several reporters:

Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson.

Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare "on the record" statement, and to provide "background" and "deep background" statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson.


For all of you Plamegate addicts, we've posted the entirety of Patrick Fitzgerald's response here.

LiveWire