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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the politicization in the Bush Administration's Department of Justice posed a threat to national security.

Responding to today's report from the DOJ Inspector General, Leahy said in a statement:

"The report reveals decisions to reject qualified, experienced applicants to work on counterterrorism issues in favor of a less experienced attorney on the basis of political ideology. Rather than strengthening our national security, the Department of Justice appears to have bent to the political will of the administration. Further, the report reveals that the 'principal source' for politically vetted candidates considered for important positions as immigration judges was the White House- a clear indication of the untoward political influence of the Bush administration on traditionally non-political appointments."

Leahy went on to criticize former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for not acknowledging the systemic problems in the DOJ.

"Like some in the administration who would place blame for the actions at Abu Ghraib solely onto the shoulders of a few bad apples, the Attorney General has tried to dismiss the Inspector General's first report on politicization issued last month as documenting the actions of just a few bad apples. But it was obvious from that first report, and becomes more so with this second joint IG/OPR report, that the problems of politicization at the Department are rooted deeper than that.

In this report, we once again see that the Bush administration has allowed politics to affect and infect the nation's chief law enforcement agency's priorities.

Leahy said he looks forward to the Inspector General Glenn Fine's testimony before his committee on Wednesday.

Read Leahy's entire statement here.

The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility released another part of their investigation into the politicization of the DOJ. The full report, "An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General," can be found here (pdf).

We'll be reading through and posting on this all day. But at first glance here's a quite relevant section:

In sum, we concluded that the evidence showed that Goodling violated both federal law and Department policy, and therefore committed misconduct, when she considered political or ideological affiliations in hiring decisions for candidates for career positions within the Department. In particular, the evidence showed that she considered political or ideological affiliations in deciding several waiver requests from interim U.S. Attorneys, in promoting several candidates for career positions, and in disapproving a candidate for an EOUSA career SES position.

Late update: Here are the names of other implicated in the report: former Chief of Staff to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson; Goodling's predecessor, former White House Liason Jan Williams, and EOUSA (Executive Office for United States Attorneys) Director John Nowacki-- who is still at the department. The report states that Nowacki knew of the politicization of the DOJ but drafted a press statement saying otherwise. Of Sampson, Williams and Goodling the report states:

In sum, the evidence showed that Sampson, Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy, and Sampson and Goodling committed misconduct, by considering political and ideological affiliations in soliciting and selecting IJs [immigration judges], which are career positions protected by the civil service laws.

Late late update: Attorney General Michael Mukasey released a statement saying he is "of course disturbed" by the findings of the OIG report:

I have said many times, both to members of the public and to Department employees, it is neither permissible nor acceptable to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career Department employees. And I have acted, and will continue to act, to ensure that my words are translated into reality so that the conduct described in this report does not occur again at the Department.

Over the course of the last year and a half, the Justice Department has made many institutional changes to remedy the problems discussed in today's report, and the report itself commends these changes. The report includes one new recommendation for institutional change, and I have directed the prompt implementation of that recommendation. It is crucial that the American people have confidence in the propriety of what we do and how we do it, and I will continue my efforts to make certain they can have such confidence.

Late late late update: The report also investigates whether officials (namely Williams, Goodling and Nowacki) gave "inaccurate or misleading" information to investigators, attorneys in civil-suits, and higher-ups at the DOJ.

Late late late late update: We think it's important to note that the former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft, who presided over the DOJ through all of this, were not implicated in the report.

The report also details some of the questions Goodling used for her interviews, here's a pithy little excerpt:

Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

And our personal favorite:

Why are you a Republican?

Of the Goodling and Angela Williamson (the Deputy White House Liason) interviewees, 34 persons said they discussed abortion, and 21 said they discussed gay marriage.

In this week's Sunday paper, the Times of London doled out another interesting detail from their secretly recorded conversation with former Homeland Security Adviser Stephen Payne.

This week's story was not as explosive as the one two weeks ago, when the Houston energy consultant offered to arrange meetings with White House officials in exchange for big donations to the future George W. Bush presidential library fund.

The latest story said Payne talked about obtaining travel documents from the United Nations in exchange for money. That's a remarkable offer from a guy who sat on the Secure Borders and Open Doors Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Committee. (Until he was told to resign a couple weeks ago).

On video, Payne was in a London hotel restaurant talking to a Kazakh politician known as Eric Dos. Dos made a reference to a previous business deal with Payne when Payne allegedly obtained a United Nations "passport" for a Kazakh billionaire who used to head the state oil and gas company, KazMunaiGas, or KMG.

Dos introduced the subject of Payne having helped Kulibayev obtain a UN "passport". Payne appeared to confirm his involvement, saying "Yeah yeah yeah, yeah." Asked if this was possible Payne answered: "It can be done. It's a question of money, always. Everything is." A source close to Payne said: "He didn't do this, but he knows who did. Kulibayev's firm paid for him to sit on a UN advisory commission and a friend of his on it got the document for him."

The "commission" referred to is the Energy Security Forum, a now defunct offshoot of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Kulibayev was given a seat, courtesy of his position at KMG, from its inception in 2003, but never turned up to any of its meetings, said a spokesman.

The document referred to is not a formal passport but allows holders to travel internationally, according to the Times.

John McCain has received a significant up-tick in contributions from the oil industry after he decided to reverse his position on offshore drilling. Since McCain's decision to support offshore drilling in June, McCain has received over $1 million in donations compared to only having received $208,000 in June. (Washington Post)

The special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction plans to release a report today detailing the problems at a prison in Khan Bani Saad which has become a symbol of government waste. The report also faults Parsons construction group for poorly managing millions of dollars in contracts. (AP)

In more bad news for Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the New York Times reveals today that he has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Harlem's biggest real estate companies. This news comes after Rangel has decided to give up a highly criticized rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem. (New York Times)

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We reported earlier that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) falsely claimed that he was named "Hero of the Taxpayer" by the non-partisan reform group, Taxpayers for Commonsense.

But Taxpayers for Commonsense denies even having such an award, yet alone awarding it to Young, a long-time target of the political watchdog.

As it turns out, Young was named "Hero of the Taxpayer", by the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, founded and run by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist.

But now even Norquist is throwing Young under the bus, issuing a press release late this afternoon slamming the Congressman and claiming he "betrays taxpayers."

"Republicans that vote for tax increases are like rat heads in Coke bottles,"Norquist said. "They ruin the Republican brand for all members. It should be readily apparent to a former 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' recipient that you don't vote for tax hikes."

According to the press release, Young voted for H.R. 2642, the Blue Dog Tax Hike-- a move that makes him ineligible to receive ATR's "Hero of the Taxpayer Award" in 2008.

We called Young's campaign press contact for comment, Mike Anderson, who told us that the bill was a lot more complicated than it looked.

"If you vote for the bill you vote for veterans and Alaska has 75,000 veterans, but you're also colored as pro-increasing taxes, but if he voted against the bill, he's anti-raising taxes but anti-veteran," Anderson told TPMmuckraker. "Young said that he had to take care of the veterans. Veterans have always been very important."

The federal investigation of former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) has nabbed another one.

Pleading guilty in federal court today was Cecelia Grimes, Weldon's very good friend and a former lobbyist.

Grimes admitted to destruction of evidence and could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case goes back to October 2006, just after the feds began investigating Weldon for alleged nepotism, particularly concerning the lucrative lobbying contracts awarded to his inexperienced daughter.

Grimes admitted today that just a few days after the feds served her with a subpoena, she stuffed a stack of documents into a trash bag and put it on the curb outside her home for pick up. The FBI later retreived those documents, which included records of her travel plans and Weldon's campaign.

She also told a federal judge that she threw her Blackberry into a trash can at a fast food restaurant in Pennsylvania so the FBI could not recover the emails stored on it.

The court documents refer to Weldon only as "Representative A."

Weldon's chief of staff pleaded guilty last year

This federal investigation probably contributed to Weldon's failure to win reelection in 2006, But so far, none of this seems to be getting in the way of Weldon's new career as an international arms dealer.

As we earlier reported, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has been running a radio ad laying claim to a fictitious award from Taxpayers for Commonsense.

In a statement released this morning, the Young camp responded with an apology in this brief press release:

In recent radio ads, we mistakenly credited the wrong organization with giving Congressman Young the Hero of the Taxpayer Award. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please be assured that the ads are being corrected to reflect that Americans for Tax Reform awarded the Congressman with this award for his commitment to the American taxpayer and his support of legislation to decrease taxes.

The troubling text of the radio ad is transcribed below:

Now that Parnell is in the "Club for No Growth" they're running false ads accusing Don Young of pushing higher taxes on Alaskans when the opposite is true. Don Young was even presented the 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Sean Parnell ought to be ashamed, Don Young ought to be re-elected.

In our humble opinion, Don Young ought to get a fact-checker.

The more we see of the back-and-forth between the Department of Justice and the CIA regarding the torture program a few years ago, the more it becomes clear that everyone knew it was a little shady.

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday released three previously undisclosed memos about the torture program from 2002 to 2004, which it obtained as part of its ongoing FOIA lawsuit with the DOJ seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.

One memo in particular appears to instruct the CIA in what agents should say if anyone raised the specter of criminal charges. For example: "To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. ...absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture."

"It read like an attorney preparing a mob client for a confrontation with the police," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "Why on earth would you instruct interrogators on the meaning of 'specific intent' unless you wanted to coach them as to what to say when confronted?"

The very existence of this extensive, documented legal exchange between the DOJ and the CIA underscores the intelligence officials' concern about the legality of their own program, said Herman Schwartz, a former civil rights attorney and law professor at American University.

"The CIA people knew this was shaky stuff -- that's why they kept asking for memos from the Justice Department saying this was OK. They were very scared they would have to face up to this in some way later on," Schwartz said in a telephone interview.

An August 2002 memo from DOJ came about the same time the attorney general had laid out a definition of torture so narrow as to only involved things like "organ failure." Specifically, the CIA wanted to know, how does that apply in practice?

Then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote to the CIA: "You have asked for this office's views on whether certain proposed conduct would violate the prohibition against torture found ...[in] United States Code."

Virtually all of the "proposed conduct" was redacted with large black marks covering whole pages. In fact, more than 80 percent of the 23 pages released to the ACLU were blacked out, apparently concealing the names of agents involved in the program and the specific techniques in question.

The memo spells out a legal logic that rests not on the facts of what may occur during interrogation, but the "defendant's" state of mind (the defendant being anyone who may actually get charged with torture).

...If a defendant acts with good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent. A defendant acts in good faith when he has an honest belief that his actions will not result in severe pain or suffering.

So, hypothetically, an interrogator gets up in front of a grand jury and tells them he had the "good faith" belief that a few hours of waterboarding was not going to cause "severe pain or suffering."

What if a jury doesn't buy it? The memo goes on to say: "Although an honest belief need not be reasonable, such a belief is easier to establish where there is reasonable basis for it."

About six months later, Tenet sent a memo to the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel informing them that the interrogators were keeping copious records.
"In each interrogation session in which enhanced Technique is employed, a contemporaneous record shall be created setting forth the nature and duration of each technique employed, the identities of those present."

Turley called that a "C-Y-A memo."

It wasn't long after that that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft rescinded the key 2002 memos that provided hte legal foundation for the torture programs.

Maybe the most important question raised by these new memos involves the records of torture sessions that Tenet referred to.

"We know there are records of what happened. Then the next question is: Will they come to light and to what extent?" Schwartz said. "I have to wonder what would be the significance of a Democratic president? If he puts his person in as head of the CIA and he puts his person in at head of DOJ? Will they as most executives are likely to do, continue to cover up what happened because of bureaucratic imperative? Or the alternative -- to provide this to Congress?"

As we mentioned yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman called-off a hearing on the White House interference with EPA decision-making when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson refused to testify.

Today, Leahy released a letter he sent to William A. Roderick the Deputy Inspector General of the EPA.

In it, Leahy requested Roderick examine the issues that would have been heard before the committee, as well as the applicability of the claim of executive privilege:

I ask you to investigate. Please include in your investigation: Whether EPA has complied with its responsibilities to provide information to Congress and the American people on environmental issues, including public health and other risks from global warming. Whether EPA's decision with respect to California's waiver from the Clean Air Act was made in accordance with the technical and legal conclusions of EPA's own staff or whether the White House improperly interfered with EPA decision-making. Whether Administrator Johnson's testimony to Congress regarding the California waiver decisions and other matters related to global warming was accurate and truthful. Finally, to the extent information has been withheld from Congress on the basis of a claim of executive privilege, please determine the factual basis for all claims of executive privilege.

So will the investigation take place The EPA Inspector General's office told TPMmuckraker, that they would "review the Chairman's request and reach out for discussion" in the near future.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has been called many things in his day, but we're pretty sure a "Hero of the Taxpayer" isn't one of them.

But according to a new radio campaign ad being run by Young, he was given just such a title in an award given to him by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

This seemed a little odd to us, as we're pretty familiar with Taxpayers for Common Sense, and pretty sure Don Young is probably the last person to receive such a dubious honor.

And sure enough according to the group named in the ad, Young's claim is patently false.

"I wish people would let us know when we give them awards," Steve Ellis, Vice President for Taxpayers for Common Sense told TPMmuckraker. "We don't even have a 'Hero of the Taxpayer' award to start out. But we did scrub through our records and we found out that we had given him an award-- the 'Golden Fleece' award in 2003 for the Bridge to Nowhere."

According to Ellis, "The Golden Fleece Award" is given for "extreme cases of wasteful government spending."

But as it turns out, Young's claim isn't completely without merit. He was in fact named a "Hero of the Taxpayer," a few weeks ago, but not by Taxpayer for Commonsense. Americans for Tax Reform, an interest group founded by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist, honored Young with that distinction in late June.

We've captured the radio audio for the ad. Note that Don Young "approves this message."

The relevant portion starts at about 33 seconds. The transcript is here:

Now that Parnell is in the "Club for No Growth" they're running false ads accusing Don Young of pushing higher taxes on Alaskans when the opposite is true. Don Young was even presented the 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Sean Parnell ought to be ashamed, Don Young ought to be re-elected.

We'll call the Young camp as soon as it's morning in Alaska.

Late update: The Young campaign released a statement that apologized for the mix-up in the attribution of the award and said they would duly revise it.