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

Bloggers, rejoice! You have been ridiculed by the media, ignored by ombudsmen and -women, shunned and scorned, accused of being nothing more than a seething mob-like mass of pure rage and opinion.

But according to the CIA, you may help prevent the next terror attack. As a top Langley official told the Washington Times:

"A lot of blogs now have become very big on the Internet, and we're getting a lot of rich information on blogs that are telling us a lot about social perspectives and everything from what the general feeling is to ... people putting information on there that doesn't exist anywhere else."


Yes, that's right: the CIA now has intelligence-gatherers who do nothing more than sit around and read blogs all day. (Down side: creeping police state. Up side: 'You mean, I could get paid for this?!')

Curiously, while most stories of this type include assurances that the CIA would never, ever use domestic sources, this one doesn't. So who knows, maybe Bush is getting summaries of Atrios' latest included in his daily brief. OTOH (let's hope the bright boys at CIA can crack that code), maybe the prez just wants to get the latest scoop on Tom Cruise's placenta eating.

More News From Iraq's Free-Fraud Zone

A U.S. contractor has pleaded guilty to spreading $2 million in bribes to win contracts with the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq in the wake of the U.S. invasion of that country.

Philip Bloom gave CPA contracting officers and other contractors "first-class plane tickets, real estate lots, weapons, new SUVs, cigars, Breitling watches, jewelry, alcohol, sexual favors from prostitutes kept at Bloom's Baghdad villa and cash bribes," court documents say. When he was given contracts, he failed to do the work, or did a poor job, officials say.

Elsewhere, a Pentagon contracting official used her post for personal gain, directing lucrative security contracts to a company she helped set up and run. (LA Times, LA Times)

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In August of 2002, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) requested that Jack Abramoff put together one of his famous Scotland junkets. But when the time came to disclose his trip, Ney couldn't just put "junket" down on the House disclosure form, no. So he wrote that the official purpose "included giving a 'speech to Scottish Parliamentarians' and visiting the British Parliament during a London stopover."

Well, you can be sure that Ney never counted on the whole world being able to see the trip's itinerary - which you can see here, as it was forwarded to David Safavian in late July, 2002. Everything seems pretty nailed down - particularly the tee times - except for, well, meeting up with the Scottish conservatives. It reads "Dinner in Edinburgh (possibly with Conservative Party)".

Abramoff followed up with a more concise summary of the activities: "golf Friday? golf Monday? golf Sunday? golf golf golf!!!"

Oh, man! You ever feel like getting away from it all?

Well, so did the treasurer for Florida GOP Congressional candidate Nancy Detert. And he took her campaign war chest with him!

Randy Maddox transferred nearly $100,000 from the campaign to his personal account and went to Buenos Aires, where he blew through $27,000 in about a week. Asked how he could spend so much money in so little time, Maddox's lawyer said, "In all truthfulness, details are sketchy."

Here's a clue: Detert said her treasurer is checked in to a Florida rehab clinic.

But this is the kicker -- federal law prohibits contributions over $2,100 to a campaign, so Detert is trying to figure out how to get her money back without seeing laws broken a second time.

We will note without comment that Detert's running for Rep. Katherine Harris' (R) seat, which she's vacating to run for Senate.

Thanks to reader LI for the tip.

Before David Safavian was even offered the position of chief of staff at GSA, he was talking to Jack Abramoff about joining him and his "band of merry men" at Greenberg Traurig. But then the GSA offer came down, and Safavian knew a sweet honey pot when he saw one. It was a irresistible perch for a once and future lobbyist.

Here's how the courtship went:

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Yesterday we learned Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) hired a big-shot criminal defense attorney, perhaps out of fear he could get nicked by the spreading Abramoff scandal. His finances keep revealing more secrets: it turns out, he's got two fundraising consultants. And they're both close to his heart.

The first, of course, is his wife Julie. Her Sierra Dominion Financial Services pulled in $82,127 from her husband's campaign.

He had such success with her, he put his chief of staff's wife on the payroll. And when his chief of staff left Washington last year, he put him on the payroll, too.

Since January 2005, Doolittle's campaign has paid David and Kathy Lopez almost as much as he pays his own wife: over $80,000 in fees and reimbursements, all for "fundraising consulting."

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What would be the perfect car for Jack Abramoff? It would need the right shine, the right glamor, with plenty of pimped-out features... How about a limo seized in a drug bust?

The government dumped almost three hundred pages of emails between Jack Abramoff and David Safavian into the public record Friday night, and they make for a highly entertaining read. Invaluable, really, for getting a sense of how these guys talked to each other. The Post and Newsweek touched on that in their coverage, but it's really worth reading the emails themselves. Above all, one gets a sense of how they thought of the federal government as their personal sandbox. We'll be posting excerpts throughout the day.

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In an effort to better understand the man who gave former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham over $1.4 million in bribes, I've spent a good amount of time finding and talking to former employees of Mitchell Wade at his company, MZM Inc. They don't paint a flattering picture of the man.

Former employees rarely do, of course. But even accounting for the typical bad feelings harbored by disgruntled former employees, he is clearly not a nice man. None were willing to be named. Why?

"Vindictive," "petty," "calculating" and "paranoid" are words that come up again and again. "You were either on his team, or he wanted you destroyed," said one person. "Everything Mitch did, he did for a reason," said another. "And he's still doing it." He liked to open all the mail delivered to MZM, just to see what people were getting, one employee recalled.

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As an Army interrogator at Abu Ghraib in 2004, Torin Nelson helped investigators document instances of prisoner abuse and torture by his colleagues. Now a contract employee, he's being blacklisted from working in the military, according to Jason Vest in Government Executive:

Since last October, Nelson has been solicited or applied for dozens of overseas contract interrogation jobs. He has gotten none. Army Lt. Col. Maricela G. Alvarado, an intelligence staff officer, told Nelson in a recent e-mail that the Army knows that he was "not involved in any incident of wrongdoing" at Abu Ghraib.


Instead, it's blowing the whistle that appears to have made him persona non grata among military intelligence:
'[Our company] is apparently being asked to be able to "certify" that deploying you forward would not cause an adverse circumstance at some point in the future,' [an executive for his employer] wrote in a recent e-mail to Nelson. 'I don't know what that means . . . [but the] basic feeling is that any attention would be unwanted, and they do not wish to accept the risk.'

After Jack Anderson's death, the FBI wants what it never had during the legendary Washington Post reporter's career -- a chance to pore through his notes:

[Anderson's] syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round, earned him the enmity of the corrupt and powerful -- so much so that during the Watergate years, associates of Nixon had discussed assassinating the columnist. They never went through with the plot. Anderson died last December at the age of 83.

His archive, some 200 boxes now being held by George Washington University's library, could be a trove of information about state secrets, dirty dealings, political maneuverings, and old-fashioned investigative journalism, open for historians and up-and-coming reporters to see.


The FBI says it wants to review them in order to remove any classified material. Jack Anderson "would probably come out of his skin at the thought of the FBI going through his papers," his son tells the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Anderson broke many Washington scandals in his time, but he also gave us Murray Waas and a generation of other investigative reporters, who interned for him in their youth -- that's a legacy to be proud of.

Doesn't the FBI have better things to do?

LiveWire