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As Josh says, we'd like any help we can get finding the revealing tidbits from the Pentagon's military analyst documents. The documents are here. Please provide a link to the pdf you are referring to, as well as the page number when you comment below.

And for those of you who haven't heard the audio of the analyst briefing on April 18, 2006, don't miss it.

If you thought the military commissions in Guantanamo Bay couldn't get any uglier, you were wrong. On Friday, the judge presiding over the Salim Hamdan case, Capt. Keith J. Allred, disqualified a top Pentagon official from any more involvement in the case. The reason? His aims seemed too political, his cheerleading for the prosecution too obvious to allow him to remain involved.

The official is Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority. That office oversees the whole process, meaning both prosecutors and defense attorneys. But as the judge's ruling makes clear, Hartmann wasn't anything close to impartial:



You can read the judge's ruling, which was first reported on by The New York Times, in full here. The judge requires that Hartmann be replaced on the case by someone outside his office.

As the Times reports, the ruling will open the flood gates to new challenges to the process from lawyers for other detainees.

Even beyond the judge's conclusion, the ruling is a remarkable document because it involves a blow-by-blow account of the politicization of the process. Mainly this information comes from Col. Morris Davis, who was the chief prosecutor for the commissions until he resigned because of the meddling of Hartmann and former Pentagon general counsel William Haynes. But other attorneys involved in the commissions provided similar accounts. Davis, called by Hamdan's lawyers, testified there late last month.

Below is an abbreviated timeline of efforts by Hartmann, Haynes and other Pentagon officials to use the Gitmo trials for political gain, as well as their efforts to squelch Davis' complaints about Hartmann's interference. It is all culled from the judge's ruling.

August, 2005 -- During Col. Davis' interview to be the chief prosecutor for the Gitmo military commissions, Pentagon general counsel William Haynes told Davis "We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions. We can't hold these men for five years and then have acquittals."

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to President Bush's uncompromising compromise from last week today with the obvious response. From Roll Call (sub. req.):

Senate Democrats have made their next move in the ongoing stalemate involving Federal Election Commission nominees, asking President Bush on Monday to either drop former Justice Department lawyer Hans von Spakovsky or begin persuading Senate Republicans to go along with individual votes to fill the five agency vacancies.

"Despite your commitment that you would accept and agree to individual votes on each of the pending nominations, including Mr. von Spakovsky's, Republican Senate leaders indicated last week that they intend to continue to block such votes," Reid wrote in a letter on Monday to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. "This continued obstructionism will prevent the FEC from its important work during this election season, including issuing advisory opinions, rulemakings, enforcement actions and certification of public financing."


As Reid notes, White House officials had whispered last week that Republicans would finally allow a vote on Spakovsky, but Senate Republicans quickly put the kibosh on that notion -- thus eliminating the only aspect of Bush's proposal that gave any ground. And so it goes.

Last July, the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from the Justice Department about three cases that seemed to be the worst cases of selective prosecutions undertaken by George Bush's DoJ. In each case, the U.S. attorney had pursued a flawed case that hurt a prominent Democrat.

Since that time, the Department has refused to turn over all but a few documents -- though one of the produced emails showed a DoJ official troubled by one of the cases, the Georgia Thompson prosecution (the other two cases are ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL) and Cyril Wecht). And in a letter on Friday, Conyers warned Attorney General Michael Mukasey that if the Department did not take notice, "we will have little choice but to consider the compulsory process." You can see that letter here.

Conyers included in his letter a three-page chart of requests (pdf) made by the committee that have gone unanswered by the Department. "We very much that the pending requests can be resolved voluntarily," he writes.

The Washington Post takes a four-part look into sub-standard health care offered to detainees held in prisons across the United States made for certain indigent laborers awaiting trial for minor offenses, or those waiting for political asylum from their home countries. They have less access to legal protection than convicted felons, and some prisons they must endure resemble Gitmo. (Washington Post)

It may not be a comeback when nothing changes, but it seems defense contractor Blackwater has done just that as the State Dept. recently renewed their contract. No charges have been brought against Blackwater despite the unprovoked, mass-killing of 17 Iraqi citizens at the hands of Blackwater guards and repeated calls from Iraqi officials for the U.S. to outlaw the group's security influence in the country. (New York Times)

According to a memo from seven employees of the Office of Special Counsel, department head Scott Bloch, whose office was raided last week during an investigation into whether his office was used for political motivations, ordered the closing of an investigation into allegations that former White House adviser Karl Rove attempted to make the frontrunner candidate for governor in Alabama Don Siegelman (D) a target for prosecution. (Washington Post)

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The president has said that his administration is employing every tool at their disposal to foil terrorists while protecting the civil liberties of Americans. For some reason, The Los Angeles Times opted not to take him at his word.

The secrecy necessary for counterterrorism prosecutions has combined with the rampant secrecy of the Bush administration to make it all but impossible to measure that balance. But the Times chooses a method, however imperfect, to gauge what's going on. Simply put: spying is up while counterterrorism prosecutions are down. The specifics:

A recent study showed that the number of terrorism and national security cases initiated by the Justice Department in 2007 was more than 50% below 2002 levels. The nonprofit Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which obtained the data under the Freedom of Information Act, found that the number of cases brought declined 19% in the last year alone, dropping to 505 in 2007 from 624 in 2006.

By contrast, the Justice Department reported last month that the nation's spy court had granted 2,370 warrant requests by the department to search or eavesdrop on suspected terrorists and spies in the U.S. last year -- 9% more than in 2006. The number of such warrants approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has more than doubled since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The department also reported a sharp rise in the use of national security letters by the FBI -- from 9,254 in 2005 to 12,583 in 2006, the latest data available. The letters seek customer information from banks, Internet providers and phone companies.


And as the Times notes, the Justice Department's performance in terrorism prosecutions has lately been underwhelming -- to wit, the farcical Seas of David case, where two juries have failed to reach a verdict.

As to what to make of these numbers, it depends on how much you're inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt.

On the civil liberty advocate of the question, the conclusion is clear:

"The number of Americans being investigated dwarfs any legitimate number of actual terrorism prosecutions, and that is extremely troubling -- for both the security and privacy of innocent Americans as well as for the squandering of resources on people who have not and never will be charged with any wrongdoing," said Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington-based civil liberties group.


Meanwhile, the former head of the FBI national security law unit says it's just in the nature of the enterprise:

"Most of these threats ultimately turn out to be wrong, or maybe just the investigating makes them go away.... A lot more information is going to pass through government hands, and most of that is going to be about people who turn out to be innocent or irrelevant."

For the past several months, a mayoral race has been quietly unfolding on the Northern edge of Dallas County, in Carrollton, Texas. For incumbent Becky Miller, the main issues were transportation and air quality; opponent Ron Branson's was illegal immigration.

Miller was always a politician with an eccentric edge-- she rode a mustang in the 2007 Dallas Gay Pride parade. She liked young people, and she liked to party (at least, she used to). After she was elected in 2005, The Dallas Morning News wrote that Carrollton's incoming mayor spoke convincingly to teens about drugs, because she'd lived it: "'I used to be a backup singer. I sang with several different famous people,'" including Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne" she told them, and coke had been part of her rock 'n roll past.

This year, Miller seemed to be sailing to reelection. Then, Wednesday morning, the Morning News changed all that. The fight turned ugly-- and very weird.

The article revealed, in short, that Miller's tales about her past could not be corroborated. The big four knocked down by the Morning News: that Becky Miller had sung backup for Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne, that she'd attended Western Kentucky University, that she was once engaged to Eagles singer-songwriter Don Henley, and that she had a brother who fought and died in the Vietnam War.

Things first began to unravel for Miller when Branson made inquiries into the story he had heard about Miller's dead brother. When things didn't quite add up, Branson questioned Miller about it, and the Morning News picked it up. Miller declared, bizarrely, that the tale had all been part of a plot to ensnare her rival:

Mrs. Miller admitted falsely telling Mr. Branson that an 18-year-old killed in Vietnam in 1968 was her brother. She said she deliberately conveyed the name of that soldier, Randolph Sampson, through a friend because she hoped Mr. Branson would use it and she could "catch him in a lie, get him to push this forward" and sue him for slander.

Mr. Branson said that after learning that the Web site the wall-usa.com listed the Army private first class as a "Negro," he informed a supporter of Mrs. Miller, who is white.

Mr. Branson provided the mayor's e-mailed reply: "The information on his being Negro is obvious [sic] a mistake, and those things happen from time to time."

"I took that as verification that she was saying this was her brother," Mr. Branson said.

Mrs. Miller said she misinformed Mr. Branson "out of anger" and "bad judgment."


Of course, it doesn't help Miller's convoluted explanation that her father, Edward Sampson, told reporters that he did have a son, who was alive and living in Maryland-- and had never been in the service. First Miller put this down to Alzheimer's, but later she changed her mind again, adding that the soldier was "not my blood brother. ... My mother did not have him." Then, in a letter to the Morning News, in which she attempted to address the paper's accusations, she said enough was enough:

My personal losses during the Vietnam war are exactly that. No one should be expected to put their personal grief on public display during an election. I certainly never brought this up as an issue.


And what of Don Henley, Jackson, Linda, Bonnie, and Western Kentucky U? Don's longtime rep told the Morning News, "Don said he's never heard of her, doesn't know her, certainly was never engaged to her." The story almost comes full circle when you look back through the archive of the local paper, the Carrollton Leader, where Miller explained in a May, 2007 story on her remarkable past that she'd become a backup singer by way of her brother, who was a songwriter for the Eagles.

Western Kentucky University echoed Don's claim of total ignorance:

Mrs. Miller states on her campaign Web site that she attended Western Kentucky University. Laura Dilliha, student records specialist there, said the school has no record of her having been a student. Mrs. Miller's former husband said that he attended Western Kentucky but that Mrs. Miller did not.

Mrs. Miller said Monday that she attended the school for about two months in 1968.

Ms. Dilliha said Tuesday, "Any time after two weeks, we do have a record ... unless they were dropped by the university for failure to pay."


As for the singers, it seems fitting that Jackson's great hit of the late 70s-- the very time Miller placed herself to be touring with him-- was The Pretender.

Of the various explanations Miller employed, the best was kept for Jackson and Linda. When informed that the singers didn't remember employing anyone of Miller's description, nor did they remember Miller's name (or the last names of her first two husbands), Miller responded:"Maybe I was going by a different name. Did you think about that?" At first she declined to offer what the name or names might be ("I'm not going to tell you what they are. You have to find that out."), but finally she acquiesced: Pinky. None of the singers remembered that one either. Ronstadt added that she hadn't employed any female backup singers during the period Miller said she'd toured with her.

Unfortunately for Miller, the voters of Carrolltown seem to prefer that their mayor's colorful past be verifiable. Miller, who'd been ahead by nine points in early voting, lost reelection yesterday.

From the AP:

Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor blamed by an angry Iraqi government for the shooting deaths of 17 civilians, is not expected to face criminal charges -- all but ensuring the company will keep its multimillion-dollar contract to protect U.S. diplomats.

Instead, the seven-month-old Justice Department investigation is focused on as few as three or four Blackwater guards who could be indicted in the Sept. 16 shootings, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to the investigation.


So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, it would certainly seriously damage the company's prospects for government business -- especially its contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan -- if Blackwater were indicted. It also certainly wouldn't help the search for investors. But if a few bad apples get put to justice, well, prospects improve. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell tells the AP, "If it is determined that there are any individuals who need to be held accountable, we support that."

Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and Jane Harman (D-CA) had a nasty surprise late last week when The Washington Post reported that Laura Flores, a former staffer who'd been busted for stealing $200,000 from her bosses' official accounts, was cooperating with the feds in an investigation of "whether members of Congress used phones, supplies and staff time for campaign purposes." The Post called it "an early-stage inquiry by the Justice Department's public integrity section." It isn't clear if the investigation is limited to, or even concentrated on, Harman and Abercrombie. Flores is getting a reduced sentence for her efforts.

Both Abercrombie and Harman have denied that there would be any reason for scrutiny. And there hasn't been a specific allegation that a Congressional staffer was paid to perform campaign activity. But the Post reported yesterday that both lawmakers had together managed to spend $2 million on their 2006 campaigns while spending only $5,000 of that on campaign workers. Both explain that by saying they used volunteers.

I asked Stan Brand, a veteran D.C. criminal defense and ethics lawyer and the former House general counsel, what he thought of the probe. He couldn't remember a prior example of the Justice Department going after lawmakers for using staffers for campaign work, but said there had been a number of prosecutions for having staffers work on a lawmakers' private business.

The problem for prosecutors, he said, is the vagueness of what would be an inappropriate activity outside a staffer's official duties. "So the courts have deferred in large measure to give the Congress some discretion in defining official duties. That's where the Justice Department has had difficult drawing that line itself." As a result, he said, prosecutors would need to "have a really clear cut and egregious case in this area to make a compelling prosecution."

Of course, this sort of thing is traditionally in the domain of the House ethics committee, but with the committee all but moribund, Brand said, the Department may be looking to "fill the vacuum." With the committee paralyzed, the Department might feel the need "to make a determination of whether something illegal has occurred here.... There's no basis for them to defer" to the committee.

The watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has seized the opportunity to demand that the committee investigate the use of staffers. Whether that will result in any action... don't bet on it.

From the AP:

Former CIA operative Valerie Plame is trying to resurrect a lawsuit against those in the Bush administration she says illegally disclosed her identity.

A federal judge dismissed Plame's lawsuit last year, saying there was no basis to bring a case. Plame's lawyers asked a federal appeals court Friday to send the case back before the judge and force him to consider its merits....

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case, saying the law requires Plame's complaints be raised under the Privacy Act. Plame's attorneys say that law is insufficient. They asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to send the case back to Bates for reconsideration.


Details about the suit here, which was originally filed way back in July of 2006.

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