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Judith Regan, one-time lover of Bernie Kerik, has filed a civil suit alleging that she was pressured by an executive at her previous job with News Corporation to lie about the affair when asked by White House investigators. The reason? According to Regan, the exec wanted to protect the potential Presidential run of one Rudy Giuliani. And though it is not disclosed in the filing, The Huffington Post notes earlier reports that Regan actually has recordings of calls between her and News Corp execs. (NY Times, Huffington Post)

The CIA videotaped at least three interrogations performed on senior al-Qaeda officials who were then being held in secret prisons abroad. Meanwhile, the CIA might be in trouble for its recent disclosure. The defense for Zacarias Moussaoui had long ago asked for interrogation transcripts of other detainees in lieu of their actual testimony, but the CIA said no such thing existed. (McClatchy)

Dr. James Holsinger, Bush's nominee for Surgeon General with a penchant for curing homosexuals, isn't too worried about Congressional obstruction. According to Kentucky's Bible Belt Blogger, Holsinger is telling folks that he will be recess appointed by Bush during the coming holiday season. Remind Congress not to turn the lights off over Christmas. (Think Progress)

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It's looking grim for Blackwater. Although the FBI hasn't finished its investigation into the September 16 shootings at Nisour Square -- in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed -- The New York Times reports that the company's guards at the square, by and large, opened fire without provocation:

Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case....

Investigators have concluded that as many as five of the company’s guards opened fire during the shootings, at least some with automatic weapons. Investigators have focused on one guard, identified as “turret gunner No. 3,” who fired a large number of rounds and was responsible for several fatalities.

Investigators found no evidence to support assertions by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon by Iraqi civilians. That finding sharply contradicts initial assertions by Blackwater officials, who said that company employees fired in self-defense and that three company vehicles were damaged by gunfire.

About the only bright spot for Blackwater: bureau officials appear inclined to give the guards the benefit of the doubt about the first round of shootings, in which Blackwater guards fired upon a white Kia sedan that didn't heed a traffic officer's order to stop at the square.

But so far, the FBI's account of the shooting is mostly in line with that of the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. In front of Congress and in a recent PR blitz, Blackwater owner and CEO Erik Prince has insisted that Blackwater guards were under attack. "There was definitely incoming small arms fire from insurgents," Prince told Wolf Blitzer last month. Blackwater has also consistently urged Congress, the press and the public to await the outcome of the FBI's investigation before passing judgment on the company.

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A new day at DoJ?

In February 2006, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility launched an internal investigation to see if the Department had properly reviewed the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. But President Bush made the unprecedented decision to deny investigators the necessary security clearances, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales meekly assented.

But in a letter to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today, OPR chief Marshall Jarrett said that "we recently received the necessary security clearances and are now able to proceed with our investigation." You can see the letter here.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, of course, was only sworn in Friday. It's not immediately clear if he's behind the reversal, but one assumes the two events must be related. Somehow the administration changed its position. (See update below.)

The investigation had been dead since the spring of 2006. The probe aims to determine whether Department officials (including both attorney generals) acted properly in approving and overseeing the program, and there was never a very good excuse for Bush shutting it down. OPR investigators were not seeking new documents from the National Security Agency, but only seeking to review documents already in the Justice Department's possession. Bush, arbitrarily, shut them down.

The move might actually be good news for Steve Bradbury, the acting head of the Department's Office of Legal Counsel; Democrats had been blocking his nomination until the OPR probe was completed, because Bradbury played a key role in reviewing the warrantless wiretapping program. Bradbury's nomination is sure to encounter other problems, of course, even if the OPR investigation clears him. He also authored still-secret memos in 2005 that, according to The New York Times, allowed interrogators to use a variety of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on detainees.

Update: ThinkProgress notes that Mukasey said two weeks ago in a written answer (pdf, see p. 126) to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the investigation that “It is my understanding this issue has already been decided. I have committed, however, to reviewing the over-all circumstances of this matter.”

There are two ways to read that. One is that Mukasey is referring to Bush's original decision to block the probe. The other is that Mukasey is saying that the decision had already been made to reverse that earlier decision. Which one is right? We're not sure.

This should be good for future defense contracts. Leading security-industry contractor DynCorp has hired the Army's former chief of staff, retired General Peter Schoomaker, to sit on the company's board of directors. From a DynCorp statement on Thursday:

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Gen. Schoomaker’s experience and caliber joining our board at this time,” said DynCorp International chairman Robert B. McKeon. “Pete’s leadership skills and in-depth knowledge of our nation’s security challenges will be a tremendous contributor to the continued growth of DynCorp International.”

Schoomaker retired from the Army in 2000, but Donald Rumsfeld brought him back to active duty to replace Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who famously clashed with Rumsfeld over the Crusader artillery system and the Iraq war. Never before has a retired general or admiral ever chaired a service. He stepped down in April, handing the reins of the Army to former Iraq commander General George Casey.

One Schoomaker angle that would be too obvious to exploit: his brother is commander of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Old habits die hard, I guess.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) is under investigation for his ties to Jack Abramoff, who's still causing plenty of trouble for Republicans, Feeney and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) most of all. A Scottish golf junket with Abramoff in 2003 is the source of Feeney's problems. But even as Feeney tries to put Abramoff far behind him ("There's no relationship") with the help of a legal defense fund, he can't help himself.

Abramoff's old associate Todd Boulanger, The Orlando Sentinel reports, will be co-hosting a $500-a-person fundraiser for Feeney tonight. Boulanger, Abramoff enthusiasts might remember, was among Abramoff's coterie of go-getting young lobbyists at the firm Greenberg Traurig. And Boulanger's go-getting spirit was on full display in an email TPMmuckraker obtained last year, where he urged others in the office to pony up for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who was a fast friend to the firm's clients (he'd "never said 'no'"). In it, Boulanger allowed that Abramoff's team had already delivered thousands in contributions for Cochran, but that wasn't "good enough for the member who keeps the lights turned on here at Greenberg."

The Sentinel notes that Boulanger, who now works at the lobby shop Cassidy & Associates, represents among other clients Freddie Mac; Feeney sits on the House Financial Services Committee. Boulanger gave Feeney $1,250 in contributions in 2005. Though a number of Boulanger's former colleagues are either in prison or under investigation, Boulanger himself appears never to have been a focus of the investigation.

Saud Memon, a “long-sought” suspect in the brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl, died earlier this year. Memon was secretly interrogated by US and Pakistani officials. Making Pearl's case even uglier, there's reason to believe that the detention and interrogation played a role in his death. (Wall Street Journal)

The government holds a distinct advantage in the war crimes trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in so far as it s lawyers may legally hide critical information and witness testimony. Neither U.S. criminal law nor the Uniform Code of Military Justice apply to the trials. But even with this “stacked deck,” the only conviction secured by the commissions was the result of a plea bargain deal with an Australian prisoner. (LA Times)

Though Norman Hsu once evaded a heavily muscled, dragon tattooed debt collector named “Shrimp Boy,” by telling police he was being kidnapped, he eventually ran out of excuses with law enforcement and wealthy investors. The Wall Street Journal has a colorful round-up of his schemes and scams, including how Hsu became a fugitive in a latex glove case. (Wall Street Journal)

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Get beyond the surge. Go further than the talk about population protection being the new basis for U.S. efforts in Iraq. The Joint Campaign Plan is the comprehensive strategy for Iraq employed by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It's a fairly important document. And Congress can't see it, reports Rachel Van Dongen for Roll Call. (sub. req.)

In television interviews and press conferences, Gen. David Petraeus has described the Joint Campaign Plan as the key military and diplomatic strategy to stabilize Iraq.

Developed by the “big brains” on the ground, Petraeus points to a “unified” effort with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker to achieve political and military security in Iraq by 2009.

Yet despite repeat efforts at the highest levels and Pentagon promises, Congress has been unable to get a current copy of the plan.

After persistent requests from House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the issue has moved up the Congressional chain of command to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). According to an aide, Pelosi asked President Bush for the document several months ago in a White House meeting. Since then, Pelosi’s staff has “repeatedly” requested a copy, her aide said, but has not yet received one.

A spokeswoman for the House Armed Services Committee generously declined to attribute the stonewalling to partisan politics. Yet the committee's request for the plan has been outstanding since the Pentagon missed a March 30 deadline for it. What's more, even though Congress hasn't seen the document, the head of a Government Accountability Office unit mentioned in October 30 testimony that his team saw the plan on a recent trip to Iraq.

Nor is Congress the only one left in the dark about why it can't see the plan. Van Dongen called the White House for an explanation, and it sent her to the Iraq command, known as Multinational Force-Iraq. An MNFI spokesperson told her, "I do not know why the White House would refer you to us regarding these questions." The Pentagon didn't reply, either. Three cheers for openness in government!

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Looks like it's not just EPIC's Marc Rotenberg who finds Don Kerr's definition of privacy problematic. Rotenberg called for Kerr to be fired from his position as principal deputy director of national intelligence. Here's a reaction from Caroline Fredrickson, legislative director of the ACLU's Washington office, who doesn't go quite that far:

"What's frightening is Mr. Kerr's comments show how under siege our privacy really is -- the more intrusive technology becomes, the more protective our legal framework should become. The Bush Administration seems to believe that just because they can get information, they should be able to get it, keep it, and use it without oversight."

A significant portion of the federal criminal case against former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik involves alleged lies Kerik told White House officials in both written and oral statements when he was seeking positions in the Bush Administration.

So far, there have been no reports of the White House receiving, let alone complying with, grand jury subpoenas in the Kerik case. However, a review of the indictment suggests that the White House may have turned over a number of records to federal investigators in addition to perhaps making current and/or former officials available for interviews with federal investigators and possibly for testimony to a grand jury.

How extensive was the White House's cooperation with the federal criminal investigation of Kerik? Will we see White House officials testifying at trial about their conversations with Kerik?

The indictment lays out a number of alleged lies told by Kerik to White House officials. False statements comprise seven counts of the sixteen-count indictment, including statements Kerik made to three unnamed White House officials, identified in the indictment as White House Official A, B and C, respectively.

---On October 29, 2002, the indictment says, Kerik fibbed to a "White House Official A" when he was applying for a position on an advisory committee to the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council. The feds say that Kerik lied about having no household help (the famous nanny) and about various shady deals (he left out that a mob-tied company paid to renovate his apartment and that a Brooklyn businessman had loaned him $250,000).

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Via Joseph Neff, the Raleigh News & Observer's Blackwater blogger, CBS reported on Friday that the Iraqi government has drafted a piece of legislation removing legal immunity for U.S. security contractors. (One of the final decrees of U.S. proconsul Jerry Bremer in 2004 was to exempt contractors from prosecution in Iraqi courts, something with which the Iraqis have to date complied.)

You can read the draft here. (pdf) It's short, and the operative language is simple: "All immunities granted to [security contractors] in accordance with any valid legislation shall be canceled."

The significance, if passed? CBS:

That law still must be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, and if and when it is, private security firms would almost certainly pull out of Iraq.

“There’s no question it’s a disaster if this got passed,” said Carter Andress, one of an estimated 8,500 private security contractors guarding diplomats, convoys and reconstruction sites for the U.S. He is not willing to let his employees be subject to arrest by an Iraqi police force he believes is riddled with corruption and infiltrated by enemy fighters.

“How do we determine in that situation whether or not it's legitimate use of the rule of law or whether or not this is someone trying to kidnap one of us and take advantage of the situation,” he said.