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I've been putting out calls as fast as my fingers can dance, and we've already gotten a response from Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM).

"I can confirm to you that the congressman did not contact Mr. Iglesias about the courthouse investigation," Pearce spokesman David Host told me. As McClatchy reported, the case Iglesias was referring to in his interview involved a former Democratic state senator who "took money to ensure an $82 million courthouse contract would go to specific company."

I'll be providing updates as I receive more answers.

Wow, McClatchy drops a bomb today with their interview of U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias.

Iglesias, whose last day on the job is today, says that two members of Congress called shortly before the 2006 election to push him on details related to his investigation of a state Democrat. Because he refused to be pressured to indict the Dem before the election, Iglesias says, he got the axe: "I believe that because I didn't play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign." Iglesias told McClatchy that "the two members of Congress not only contacted him directly but also proceeded to try to wrest details about the case from him."

A member of Congress directly contacting a U.S. Attorney is a no-no, especially in cases as sensitive as the one at hand. " Congressional questions about ongoing cases are supposed to go through a special office within the Justice Department to avoid the appearance of impropriety," McClatchy reports. Iglesias says that he was "appalled by the inappropriateness of those contacts."

So there's a big unanswered question here: who were the two lawmakers? McClatchy reports that a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said that it wasn't Bingman. McClatchy couldn't get ahold of New Mexico's other lawmakers as of press time. They are Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) (who wasn't up for reelection at the time) and Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce (R-NM).

We'll be putting calls in to them right away, and also to members of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate, and Republican committee leaders.

It gets clearer and clearer: Salon reports that at least two of the federal prosecutors forced out in December were told by a senior Justice official that there was no other reason for their dismissal than to make room for another appointee. From Salon:

According to the former senior Justice Department official, one of the U.S. attorneys in the group was told by [Justice Department official Michael] Battle on Dec. 7: "It's hard not to think you did something wrong when you get a call like this, but that's not always the case." Two other U.S. attorneys in the group, upon seeking clarification from superiors in Washington, were told by a different top Justice Department official that they were being pushed out to give other Bush appointees their posts. A current senior Justice Department official confirmed that one of those two was [U.S. Attorney Daniel] Bogden in Nevada.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias has confirmed that he wrote an email calling his firing a "political fragging."

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From The Army Times:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Army's Surgeon General Knew Of Outpatient Conditions Before WaPo Article "Though he has since dodged the question in a television interview, the officer in charge of medical care for the U.S. Army was told more than two months ago that the Army's outpatient medical care program was dysfunctional, yet he apparently took no action in response. The Army's outpatient services include the substandard treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that has been the subject of a number of recent articles in the Washington Post and a series of stories in Salon in 2005." (Salon)

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If you checked out yesterday's Worldwide Threat briefing, you could be forgiven for checking your calendar to see if it was still September 10, 2001. Discussing al-Qaeda, John McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, described a metastasizing threat coming from... the lawless Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

This year will be "pivotal" for Afghanistan, McConnell said. From the NYT:

Mr. McConnell’s assessment was grim: “Long-term prospects for eliminating the Taliban threat appear dim, so long as the sanctuary remains in Pakistan, and there are no encouraging signs that Pakistan is eliminating it. ‘’

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The Washington Post interviewed a former detainee in one of the CIA's "black sites," to give the most detailed description yet of what the facilities are like.

Marwan Jabour was picked up in Pakistan in May, 2004, "beaten, abused and burned' at a jailhouse in Lahore where "two female American interrogators also questioned him and told him he would be rich if he cooperated and would vanish for life if he refused." From there, it was off to a "villa in a wealthy residential neighborhood" nearby, which is actually a detention facility run by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence. There, he "was chained to a wall and prevented from sleeping more than a few hours at a time" and was "beaten nightly by Pakistani guards after hours of questions from U.S. interrogators."

After five weeks there, he was off to the black site, a facility somewhere in Afghanistan:

Jabour said he was often naked during his first three months at the Afghan site, which he spent in a concrete cell furnished with two blankets and a bucket. The lights were kept on 24 hours a day, as were two cameras and a microphone inside the cell. Sometimes loud music blasted through speakers in the cells. The rest of the time, the low buzz of white noise whizzed in the background, possibly to muffle any communication by prisoners through cell walls.

Daily interrogations were conducted by a variety of Americans. Over two years, Jabour said he encountered about 45 interrogators, plus medical staff and psychologists. He was threatened with physical abuse but was never beaten.

Conditions "slowly improved" for Jabour, who eventually received privileges like pants, air conditioning, a library, movies, and Kit-Kat bars.

The details go on, but perhaps the most striking thing about Jabour's account is that he was eventually let go. A U.S. counterterrorism official the Post interviewed said that Jabour was "in direct touch with top al-Qaeda operations figures," was a money man for jihadists, and is "an all-around bad guy." Nevertheless, they let him go on June 30, 2006, "just after the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's assertion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners like him," the Post notes. Jabour lives with his parents in the Gaza strip.

The Post also adds more details on the number of people who were held in such "black sites":

Human Rights Watch has identified 38 people who may have been held by the CIA and remain unaccounted for. Intelligence officials told The Post that the number of detainees held in such facilities over nearly five years remains classified but is higher than 60. Their whereabouts have not been publicly disclosed.

Only 14 detainees were moved from CIA custody to the Guantanamo Bay last summer. "[S]cores more have not been publicly identified by the U.S. government, and their whereabouts remain secret," the Post reports.

Note: There's more on Jabour at Human Rights Watch.

House Democrats and federal prosecutors have struck what seems like a historic deal to turn over congressional documents related to the Duke Cunningham investigation.

The prosecutors from California's Southern District have been chasing the documents, from the House Committees on Appropriations, Armed Services and Intelligence, since last May. After originally requesting the documents, prosecutors finally served a subpoena for them in December after negotiations apparently broke down.

The investigation resulted in two major indictments two weeks ago, against contractor Brent Wilkes and former CIA executive director Dusty Foggo, and is ongoing. As The Hill detailed, the indictment against Wilkes indicated that other lawmakers seem to be in prosecutors' sights.

According to a statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) office outlining the deal, prosecutors have withdrawn their subpoenas. In exchange, House Democrats have started handing over documents (whether it's everything prosecutors asked for is unclear) and will not assert that the material is Constitutionally privileged under the Speech and Debate Clause, as Democrats had reportedly been considering. In addition, two Republican congressional staffers will be testifying to the grand jury in California on Thursday.

The full statement from Pelosi's office is below.

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Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, indicted two weeks ago for financing terrorists in Afghanistan among other charges, gave more than $35,000 to Republican campaign committees, not $15,000 as was reported earlier.

A $20,000 contribution from Alishtari to the National Republican Senatorial Committee on August 29th, 2003, was not previously reported because his name was misspelled ("Allshtari") on the NRSC's disclosure form to the Federal Election Commission (unfortunately, such misspellings are fairly frequent). Alishtari's online CV stated that he was named an "Inner Circle Member for Life" of the NRSC.

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