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

The Nation has a chilling new story up about how the U.S. security contractor Blackwater cut corners on the safety of its men in Iraq, at the same time it was rabidly overcharging its clients.

Among other shockers, the magazine reveals that Blackwater removed language in one of its contracts that would have ensured all its personnel would travel in armored vehicles. Families of four slain employees are suing the company because of the change.

"When they took that word 'armored' out, Blackwater was able to save $1.5 million in not buying armored vehicles, which they could then put in their pocket," an attorney in the suit tells the magazine.

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"Has Rove's security clearance been revoked?" mused John Podesta over at ThinkProgress.org yesterday. He noted that if Karl Rove was found to have been involved in leaking the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, Bush would be forced to restrict his access -- which would force him out of many policy discussions.

At a press briefing later that afternoon, a reporter asked Bush spokesman Scott McClellan if Rove would keep his security clearance when he's moved out of his policy job; "Absolutely, yes," McClellan answered.

We can believe McClellan, of course, because he's a truth-teller. But the question left some wiggle room. Rove's clearance may have been downgraded in recent days, for instance, or a revocation may be in the works, but we wouldn't know it from McClellan's answer. A better phrasing might have been: what is the level of Rove's current security clearance, has it changed since he has been at the White House, and is it expected to change in the near future?

I guess that's three questions. (I flunked the math section of the White House Correspondents' Exam.)

Family members and close "family friends" of Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), a powerful member of the Armed Services Committee, share an uncanny ability to get hired by large companies fishing for U.S. defense contracts, the new investigative blog at Harper's magazine reports. His daughters Kim and Karen, and "family friend" Cecelia Grimes, have all landed jobs or contracts with Boeing, two divisions of Italian industrial firm Finmeccanica, as well as other firms. Company reps assured Harper's that their hires' connection to the congressman was sheer coincidence.

Lawmaker to Constituent: "I Think You're An. . . "

The truth hurts. Missourian Bill Jones opened a letter from his congresswoman, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), in which the lawmaker wrote, "I think you're an" followed by "a profane, seven-letter insult," the AP reports, which our New York Times crossword dictionary tells us is "asshole."

Emerson says she can't figure out how it got in there or how it got mailed, although she did sign the letter personally and hand-write at the bottom, "P.S. - please forgive the delay in responding." Something tells me there's a 22-year-old constituent services assistant who will never work in Washington again. (AP)

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To the Burberry ramparts!

The man Bush tapped to fill Karl Rove's spot as his policy wizard is none other than Joel Kaplan, who took part in the infamous "Brooks Brothers riot" of 2000. That's when a bunch of Washington GOP operatives, posing as outraged Floridians, waved fists, chanted "Stop the fraud!" and pounded windows in an effort to intimidate officials engaged in the Florida recount effort.

In George Bush's Washington, there's no shame in staging a fake protest to undermine a democratic election, apparently: last year, the Washington Post's Al Kamen noted that "the "rioters" proudly note their participation on resumes and in interviews." Kaplan was even the one to cheekily dub the fracas the "Brooks Brothers Riot."

Over at ThinkProgress, John Podesta notes Rove's changing role and asks an intriguing question: Did Bush's Brain have his security clearance pulled?

This morning's newspapers are ablaze with the outrageous news that the FBI was trying to get its hands on over 200 boxes of files once belonging to legendary investigative journalist Jack Anderson.

What the papers didn't report was the truly ugly extent to which the bureau has gone to achieve their goal -- such as manipulating Anderson's elderly widow to sign a document she apparently didn't understand.

I spoke with Jack Anderson's son Kevin yesterday. He's an attorney, and acts as the family's representative with the FBI. He told me that the lead agent in this case, Leslie Martell, went behind his and his siblings' backs to get his elderly mother, Olivia, to sign a form that would allow FBI agents to review and remove documents from her husband's files.

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An appeals court in Texas has ruled that the criminal conspiracy charge against Tom DeLay should stay out. That means he only faces the money laundering charge, a first degree felony, and the more serious of the two. The appeals court's decision clears the way for a trial date being set. The main event shouldn't be far off -- I'd expect it sometime in late summer.

For those who want reminding of what DeLay's in trouble for, here's the indictment.

Scott McClellan skips out, WaPo reporting.

Update: D.C. Examiner reports WH Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has offered the job to FOX News Radio's Tony Snow. Fox News confirms Snow was approached. (We're sure he'll turn it down to preserve his objectivity as a journalist.) Other possibles include former Pentagon spinner Victoria Clark, and former CPA spokesman Dan Senor. (h/t to politicalwire.com)

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