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A new report from the Pentagon's inspector general describes a massive failure in accounting for military equipment and services provided to forces in Iraq. More than $1 billion for military equipment like tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles, crates of machine guns and rocket propelled grenades is unaccounted for. (CBS News, New York Times)

Salon pushes beyond Bush’s obvious prevarications about the NIE and Iran’s nuclear threat and argues that “the real lie” is Bush’s claim that “his administration has made a serious offer to negotiate with the Islamic Republic, and that Iranian intransigence is the only thing preventing a diplomatic resolution. Negotiations over Iran's nuke program, which started in the fall of 2003, were initiated by Britain, France and Germany, not the U.S. “Contrary to Bush's statement at his press conference this week, the United States did not "facilitate" these negotiations.” (Salon)

The Nation reports that “bu$ine$$” for Blackwater has never been better. Despite the massacre of 17 Iraqis, Congressional investigations of tax fraud, and a federal lawsuit alleging war crimes, Blackwater, having launched a marketing campaign, still seems a favorite of the Bush administration. The company even managed to have its own paratroopers make an aerial landing – complete with Blackwater parachutes – in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium during a halftime show at the San Diego State/BYU football game. (The Nation)

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Usually, what nails you in Washington malfeasance is the cover-up, not the crime. With the revelation that the CIA in 2005 destroyed videotapes of interrogations of senior al-Qaeda detainees, it'll be both.

Start with the facts as they're currently understood. In 2002, the CIA videotaped interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, the chief of al-Qaeda's military committee, and an as-yet-unknown colleague. (My guess is that Detainee #2 is Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who, following his capture that September in Pakistan, was the second most important detainee then in custody.) During that time, the tapes remained a closely-held secret, despite requests for information on interrogations from the 9/11 Commission, a 2002 joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11, and Judge Leonie Brinkema, who presided over the Zacharias Moussaoui trial. In 2005, then operations chief Jose Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed, without disclosing their existence to anyone who didn't already know. This week, The New York Times prepared a story about the tapes. To get out in front of it, Director Michael Hayden released a statement about both the tapes and their destruction.

Hayden makes not a single plausible claim about the tapes and why they were destroyed. He said in an internal message to CIA employees that the release of the tapes -- whether to the judge or to the inquiries or to, ultimately, the press -- would have allowed al-Qaeda to identify CIA interrogators and then target them for retribution. The appropriate response to that is: LOL. The CIA has the capacity to move its operatives around the world, including to places where there aren't any al-Qaeda "assassins" -- like, say, northern Virginia. To say otherwise, as Hayden does, is to tacitly concede that CIA is too incompetent to protect its people.

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The New York Times has a big one this afternoon: in 2002, the CIA videotaped the interrogations of at least two Al Qaeda operatives -- interrogations that likely involved waterboarding and similar techniques. But no one who asked for videotapes of CIA interrogations -- including the 9/11 commission and a federal judge -- was told about it. The tapes were ultimately destroyed in 2005.

In a nutshell:

Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission and was involved in the discussions about interviews with Al Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed.

If tapes were destroyed, he said, “it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,” because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in criminal or fact-finding investigations.

CIA chief Mike Hayden announced the destruction of the tapes today in order to get ahead of the Times story, which was due to break tomorrow morning. "The tapes posed a serious security risk," he explains. However, he doesn't attempt to justify the decision to lie to investigators about their existence before they were destroyed.

As for why the tapes were destroyed:

A former intelligence official who was briefed on the issue said the videotaping was ordered as a way of assuring “quality control” at remote sites following reports of unauthorized interrogation techniques. He said the tapes, along with still photographs of interrogations, were destroyed after photographs of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib became public in May 2004 and C.I.A. officers became concerned about a possible leak of the videos and photos.

Presidential veto, here we come.

The intelligence bill passed today includes, as anticipated, a measure (sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Russ Feingold (D-WI)) that would effectively ban waterboarding. That's because it would limit CIA interrogators to using techniques approved by the Army Field Manual.

If President Bush signs the bill, says Sen. Feinstein in a statement, "all U.S. government interrogations – military and civilian – would be conducted under the same rules and regulations, and eight specific techniques, including waterboarding, would be prohibited."

But the White House has said that he will veto it. So then it becomes a question of whether Congress has the votes to override it.

Here's the measure's language:

“No individual in the custody or under the effective control of an element of the intelligence community or instrumentality thereof, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by the United States Army Field Manual on Human Intelligence Collector Operations.”

This week was supposed to be the main event. In one corner, a State Department inspector general accused of incompetence, subterfuge, and conflicted interest, saying he didn't know his brother served on the advisory board of a huge State Department contractor. In the other, a former CIA Executive Director, saying he told his brother in October about joining that board. Krongard versus Krongard. Both under oath. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) as referee.

After a mid-November interview with Buzzy Krongard, Waxman announced that on the week of December 3, he'd hold a hearing to determine whether State Department IG Howard "Cookie" Krongard lied to the House oversight committee in his last testimony. Well, it's December 6. There hasn't been a hearing so far. There isn't one on the committee schedule. What gives?

Honestly, TPM readers, I have no idea. Waxman's people haven't answered my emails. I appear to be on a straight-to-voicemail arrangement with Krongard's spokeswoman. Even Buzzy seems to be freezing me out. I'm starting to get a complex!

It would be pretty surprising if Waxman backed off his path to pursuing a perjury investigation. Krongard has apparently figured he can weather the storm. What will happen? I'd like to tell you that we'll see, but I might be the last to know.

Yesterday we told you about Rudy Giuliani's business partner Hank Asher's well-timed gift to the wife of indicted Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. One of the remarkable things about the story is how thoroughly it hits the high points of what we've come to expect from Giuliani muck.

Sure, it's got bribery allegations, as with Giuliani's chum Bernie Kerik. But it's also got the flagrant misuse of taxpayer money on "security" matters that we've come to expect from the Giuliani brand.

Setting aside the hundreds of thousands in gifts and bribes outlined in the indictment, Carona was notorious in California for traveling with "a team of detectives as bodyguards." When The Los Angeles Times asked him about "the extravagance" in 2004, sheriff officials replied, "without offering specifics," that "Carona has received death threats and is a potential target because he serves on a federal homeland security committee and has become a recognizable figure with appearances on national TV news programs." The Times noted that other California sheriffs didn't seem to need the same amount of attention.

An Orange County Register piece from earlier this year suggests that at least part of the inspiration for rolling with such a posse came from Giuliani himself:

According to grand jury testimony, [Carona's deputy sheriff George] Jaramillo ordered underlings to run his personal errands, had secretaries juggle calls from his wife and girlfriends, and said he needed an entourage because he was tired of being treated like "the gardener."

Carona got the same star treatment, using bodyguards and being chauffeured by deputies to events. After a visit to New York and a meeting with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Jaramillo and Carona decided they wanted the same kind of deputy detail and ordered it done.

Carona, of course, has endorsed Giuliani. It's unclear whether the security detail was also dispatched to secure his longtime mistress.

Yesterday the State and Defense Departments announced the contours of a new "understanding" for oversight of State's security contractors in Iraq. The gist: State will have to inform military commanders of the doings of contractor-guarded convoys, and if there's obvious wrongdoing, the U.S. embassy and the military command will seek prosecution. (Of course, it's not clear what law would apply, but anyway.)

All this arose because of Blackwater's September shootings of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square. Not surprisingly, the company -- which is being sued by the victims' families, and might even (but probably won't) face criminal charges stemming from an ongoing FBI probe -- is embracing the State-Defense pact:

Blackwater fully supports the memorandum of agreement signed today by the Department of State and the Department of Defense regarding private security companies operating in Iraq on behalf of the US Government. Blackwater has always supported the identification of contractor standards and clear rules of accountability. Increased coordination and constant review of procedures will provide even better value to the Government. Blackwater looks forward to complying with new rules as we continue to serve the United States Government.

Four former CIA officials find Bush’s claim that he only recently learned of the contents of the NIE report, to be “preposterous.” One of these experts said that such intelligence would have been, as a matter of practice, included in the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDB) , which have occurred daily since last August when the Director of the NIE whispered in Bush’s ear that he had some new info on Iran. (Huffington Post)

Lawyers for Bin Laden’s former driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan have been allowed to argue that Hamdan is a prisoner of war and not an unlawful enemy combatant. Earning a coveted POW status would mean that Hamdan would be removed from the military commission process and that the Geneva Convention would apply to the terms of his detention. However, a military judge has denied him the right to call three “high-value detainees” as witnesses. (LA Times)

What's next for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay? It appears likely that the Supreme Court will rule that the U.S. Constitution protects their legal rights, but there are tougher issues to decide, like whether the current procedure is adequate. Don't expect a decision in Boumediene v. Bush and Al-Odah v. United States until early next summer, just before the court recesses. (McClatchy)

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We've been down this road before, first with the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act and then with this summer's executive order on interrogations. And, like water seeking its own level, each time the Bush administration faces some kind of legal obstacle to torturing terrorism detainees, it finds a way to circumvent it. Even so, Congress is prepared to pass yet another ban on CIA torture techniques, the AP reports.

House and Senate negotiators working on an intelligence bill have agreed to limit CIA interrogators to techniques approved by the military, which would effectively bar them from using such harsh methods as waterboarding, congressional aides said Wednesday.

Members of the House and Senate intelligence committees decided to include the ban while working out differences in their respective bills authorizing 2008 spending for intelligence programs, according to the aides, who spoke anonymously because the negotiations were private. Details of the bill are to be made public Thursday.

That will set the stage for another veto fight with President Bush, who last summer issued an executive ordered allowing the CIA to use "enhanced interrogation techniques" that go beyond what's allowed in the 2006 Army Field Manual.

The Army field manual is compliant with the Geneva Conventions, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States of America. Waterboarding and the other potentially-banned tortures are not. Three guesses on which the Bush administration will choose.

From a not-yet-online piece from Congressional Quarterly, the White House proclaims that torture, and only torture, can keep your children safe:

And White House spokesman Tony Fratto issued a statement saying, "if that provision is in the bill, it would make a bad bill worse. We had a veto message on a similar provision in the House's supplemental funding bill. The CIA program has provided valuable, actionable intelligence that has allowed us to find and capture terrorists and prevent attacks. Efforts to weaken this program are dangerous and misguided."

As the AP notes, CIA director Mike Hayden has (euphemistically) defended torturing detainees. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has pleaded ignorance on whether waterboarding is torture. In an interview with TPMmuckraker on Monday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pledged to press Mukasey on the legality of waterboarding every time Mukasey testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee. With the White House spending more energy defending its God-given right to torture than it spends, say, finding Osama bin Laden, prepare to see this sorry spectacle again and again over the next fourteen months.

Rudy Giuliani has argued that his buddy Hank Asher put his lawbreaking past behind him. But it looks like he may have fallen off the wagon.

We noted earlier today that Asher pops up in the indictment of Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona. And although Asher is not accused of a crime, the facts do not look good: Less than three weeks after Carona was selected to advise the President's Homeland Security task force, Asher gave Carona's wife a $15,000 watch. Asher was lobbying for the federal government to buy his data mining software at the time. That same month, he hired Giuliani under a contract worth more than $4 million to head that effort.

Carona was one of 14 officials named as advisors to the task force in December of 2002, the month before the newly formed DHS officially began operations. The panel was guiding development of the Department at the time. Carona remained as an advisor until he was forced to resign last month due to his indictment on corruption charges.

According to the indictment, Asher gave "yellow gold and diamond" Cartier watches to both Carona's wife and the wife of his deputy when they visited New York in December 2002. ABC reported that Asher was bombastic during the meeting at the restaurant, handing out $100 bills and comping other diners' meals and drinks to "pay for any inconvenience his boisterous party caused the other guests."

Carona was certainly aware of Asher's product, code-named MATRIX. A 2004 City Journal piece reported that Carona said that if he'd had MATRIX in 2002, "he could have prevented the murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion, abducted from outside her home in July 2002, and found, raped, along a mountain road the next day." In 2002, when he was nominated to the DHS advisory spot, he told The Los Angeles Times that he intended to push for "strong coordination between the federal and local fight against terrorism," precisely the strength of MATRIX, which compiles law enforcement databases and public records.

Asher's support of Carona continued in 2006, when he and his family and associates made $6,000 in contributions to Carona's reelection campaign, according to county records.

Asher could not be reached for comment, and an assistant at his company Jari Research said that it was unlikely he'd respond, since this was a "hard time" for him. Asher's sister died last month of cancer.

As for Giuliani's camp, they responded to ABC's story yesterday about Asher's appearance in Carona's indictment with something of a non-answer:

"This would seem to be another case of trying to find a story where there isn't one. Over the course of his career, Mayor Giuliani has worked with numerous well-respected and highly regarded individuals as a member of the Reagan Department of Justice, US Attorney, Mayor of New York and private practice," said Maria Comella, a spokesperson for Giuliani.

Andrew Berger, Adrianne Jeffries, and Peter Sheehy contributed research to this post.