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Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is taking an enormous amount of criticism from the left -- see Glenn Greenwald and Christy Hardin Smith, for starters -- for putting the Senate intelligence committee's version of the surveillance bill on the floor as the "base text" for a vote on Monday and offering the Senate Judiciary Committee's version as a standing amendment. In a nutshell, Judiciary's version doesn't provide retroactive telecom immunity and offers more civil-liberties protections. (TPMm homie Julian Sanchez has a good rundown of the differences at Ars Technica.)

Reid spokesman Jim Manley tells us that Reid wants both bills to contend, doesn't intend to favor one over the other, and the reason why the intelligence committee's version is the base text owes to "the order in which they considered the bill." (Intelligence marked it up before Judiciary.)

In a floor statement today, Reid said that he "personally favor[s] many of the additional protections included in the Judiciary Committee bill, and I oppose the concept of retroactive immunity in the Intelligence bill." But it would "be wrong of me to simply choose one committee's bill over the other." He added that the "consensus" emerged between himself, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that using intelligence's bill as the base text was the right way to go. Reid's full statement is after the jump.

But that decision certainly hasn't satisfied critics of the intelligence bill. Says Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies:

"As leader, Senator Reid chooses what bill to bring to the floor and under what procedures; he could choose to bring to the floor the bill as reported out of the Judiciary committee with much improved privacy protections and no immunity....

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Just when you thought the GOP couldn't back torture any more. From the AP:

Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday that would restrict the interrogation methods the CIA can use against terrorism suspects.

The legislation, part of a measure authorizing the government's intelligence activities for 2008, had been approved a day earlier by the House and sent to the Senate for what was supposed to be final action. The bill would require the CIA to adhere to the Army's field manual on interrogation, which bans waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh interrogation methods.

Senate opponents of that provision, however, discovered a potentially fatal parliamentary flaw: The ban on harsh questioning tactics had not been in the original versions of the intelligence bill passed by the House and Senate. Instead, it was a last-minute addition during negotiations between the two sides to write a compromise bill, a move that could violate Senate rules. The rule is intended to protect legislation from last-minute amendments that neither house of Congress has had time to fully consider.


The culprit? One-time torture opponent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham: "I think quite frankly applying the Army field manual to the CIA would be ill-advised and would destroy a program that I think is lawful and helps the country." So torture is counterproductive for the military but valuable for the CIA?

Update: Yeah, yeah, I misspelled Lindsey Graham's name initially. Sorry, senator.

Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Arlen Specter (R-PA) sent Attorney General Michael Mukasey a detailed list of questions about the Justice Department's knowledge of the CIA's torture tapes' destruction. What did DoJ officials know about the tapes while they existed? When did they learn they were to be destroyed? What communications did they have with the White House about it?

They were also eager to learn the details of the Justice Department's joint investigation with the CIA.

Today, Mukasey gave his reply: no. The Department "has a long-standing policy of declining to provide non-public information about pending matters," he wrote, in order to avoid "any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence. Accordingly, I will not at this time provide further information in response to your letter, but appreciate the Committee's interests in this matter." You can read that letter here.

In a statement, Leahy responded that he was "disappointed" by Mukasey's reply (see below) and promised that he'd ask Mukasey about the tapes at the committee's first oversight hearing, which he said would be in the new year.

Apparently Mukasey sent similar letters today to a number of other Democratic lawmakers who'd asked about the tapes, in a move that The Washington Post calls a "sharp rebuff." It is at least a contrast to Alberto Gonzales, who would ignore Congressional letters and requests for months before refusing to provide information.

Leahy's statement is below.

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First Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign in disgrace. Now they've stripped his Lawyer of the Year crown from him. What next?

Earlier this week, the American Bar Association Journal, to universal derision, named Gonzales Lawyer of the Year. They tried to make it clear that the recognition was merely for Gonzo's talent for stealing headlines, a talent unmatched among lawyers in 2007, but still, the jarring combination of his picture next to the words "Lawyer of the Year" proved too much for many to bear.

So the journal has issued a clarification:

When this article was posted online on December 12, 2007, it was titled “Lawyers of the Year.” The article defined that term as the year’s biggest legal newsmaker, identifying former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as the major newsmaker of 2007. The Journal regrets that we did not make this theme clear.

We appreciate the feedback we’ve received, and we’re acting on it. So that there can be no confusion, the term “Lawyers of the Year” has been changed in the headline and story to “Newsmakers of the Year.” The story is otherwise unchanged from its original version.


Note: Thanks to TPM Reader MB.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) responding to John Tanner's resignation:

“Mr. Tanner had a clear record of undermining the core mission of the section – protecting the right to vote. In October, my subcommittee held an investigation on the Section, where it became clear that Mr. Tanner was actively seeking to curtail that cornerstone of American democracy. The right to vote is the foundation of all our liberties and it must be protected.

“Indeed, under Mr. Tanner’s leadership, the Justice Department essentially took positions that disenfranchised minorities and the elderly. The departure of Mr. Tanner presents an opportunity for a fresh start of the Voting Section. I urge the Bush Administration to take this opportunity to take politics out of voting rights enforcement by appointing a new chief with a commitment to the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act.”


Update: And here's House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI):

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Happy Friday, I can't resist this. Froomkin, go!

John D. McKinnon blogs that Perino was asked yesterday why Bush didn't notice the epidemic of performance-enhancing drugs that was taking hold of the game when he was an owner.

Perino pointed to an ESPN interview in which he said that he's thought long and hard about it, but doesn't recall ever seeing or hearing evidence of a steroid problem.

Writes McKinnon: "A Fox News reporter, Wendell Goler, pointed out that former Ranger Jose Canseco has said 'he cannot comprehend why Mr. Bush didn't know that steroid use was going on on the team.' So does Bush regret not picking up on the problem, Goler asked?

"'I don't think it's a time for regret,' Perino said. 'I think it's time to do what the president has done, which is . . . to shine a light on the issue. And now we have a result . . . a report that is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so.'"

We tried to figure out just what Kerik had been up to during his three-and-a-half months running the Interior Ministry in Iraq before. So, apparently, did the makers of the brutal Iraq documentary No End in Sight. Though Kerik was interviewed for the film, his section was left on the cutting room floor, but it will be included in a forthcoming book by the same name from the filmmaker. In an excerpt run by The New York Post, Kerik says that he was called in to see Defense Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in May of 2003 to discuss policing policies in Iraq. Ten days later, he was on his way to Iraq. He prepared for the job in part by watching A&E documentaries on Saddam Hussein.

Kerik may have been the "eyes and ears of the Oval Office on the ground" in Iraq, but he says he opposed perhaps the most disastrous decision made then, which was to disband the Iraqi military. And he opposed the "momentum" to do the same with the Iraqi police. Good call.

When the interviewer got on the topic of Kerik's trouble with the law, he was less forthcoming. Asked whether he thought it "raises questions about your judgment and whether it was wise to appoint you," he said no, then:

Ferguson: "How come so many legal problems?"

Kerik: "It's a political year... Look, I'm not here to talk about my case. I'm here to talk about Iraq, so let's talk about Iraq."

From Roll Call (sub. req.):

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis on Friday morning delayed for six weeks the beginning of Rep. William Jefferson’s corruption trial, rejecting a request from the Louisiana Democrat’s lawyers to push the start date back four to six months.

The trial is now scheduled to begin Feb. 25.


So nearly two and a half years after the feds found $90,000 in Jefferson's freezer (he'd accepted a briefcase full of $100,000 in cash from an FBI informant in a hotel parking lot), he'll finally get his day in court. We're looking forward to it.

If there's one thing that the Abramoff scandal has taught us, it's that it pays to snitch.

From the AP:

An environmental advocate who provided Jack Abramoff's entree into the Interior Department was sentenced Friday to two months in a halfway house and four years probation.

Italia Federici, who pleaded guilty in June to tax evasion and obstructing a Senate investigation, was spared prison only because she has become a key witness in the Justice Department's ongoing corruption investigation.


(I would be remiss if I didn't amusedly note the AP's description of Federici as an "environmental advocate." She did indeed head a group called Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA), so the word "environmental" was in her group's title. But her advocacy was definitely against the environmental movement, not with it.)

Federici was key in helping the feds bag Steven Griles, formerly the deputy secretary of the Interior Department (and formerly her boyfriend). Griles was sentenced to 10 months in prison back in June. And for that, she's been rewarded.

The scheme went this way: Jack Abramoff's tribal clients gave CREA at least $500,000 in contributions, providing practically the entire operating budget for the group. In return, Federici used her close connections to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton (for whom she used to work) and the #2 Steven Griles (whom she was dating) to make sure that Abramoff's concerns were addressed. Here's the whole rundown.

Today, John Tanner resigned from his position effective immediately as chief of the Civil Rights Division's voting section. His resignation email, with the subject line "Moving On" was sent out at approximately 11 AM to voting section staff. He said that he will be moving on to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. The email is reproduced below in full.

With Tanner, it had seemed like a matter of not if, but when. As we reported late last month, his travel habits had angered attorneys in the voting section, leading to an investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

And that was after his comments about the tendency of minorities to "die first" led Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and others to call for his removal. When he went before the House Judiciary Committee in October, he was lambasted for his tendency of "basing your conclusions on stereotypes" (like, say, claiming that African-Americans have IDs more than whites because they're always going to cash-checking businesses).

But most of all, Tanner's reign is notable for his collusion with the political appointees who oversaw the section, an ongoing effort to reverse the Civil Rights Division's traditional role in protecting minority voters, particularly African-Americans, into one of aiding thinly disguised vote suppression measures (most infamously Georgia's voter ID law). It was an effort that some career DoJ attorneys later described as "institutional sabotage."

Who'll be taking over? We've got a question into DoJ to see.

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