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With Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), what you see is what you get. He's the man who opined to The New York Times that "deal making is what Congress is all about" and called the Democrats' ethics reform bill "total crap."

And in today's profile in The Wall Street Journal, he's quoted telling an attendee at a fundraiser in Johnstown, his hometown, that bringing federal dollars there "is the whole goddamn reason I went to Washington."

And he's certainly done that:

Mr. Murtha has steered at least $600 million in earmarks to his district in the past four years, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan Washington group. The nonprofit group estimates he's sent $2 billion or more to the district since joining the appropriations committee....

His earmarks in the current bill are $166.5 million, more than any other House member, Taxpayers for Common Sense says. Mr. Murtha's spokesman did not dispute this year's total, but said without providing details that it is down by half from last year.


Of course, the important thing about those federal dollars (through defense appropriations) is that they go to his district -- certainly not whether the military wants or needs the programs that they fund. Murtha has proven something of a miracle worker, taking Johnstown from its low point in 1983 of 24% unemployment to its current healthy 5%. As John Wilke of the Journal puts it, "If John Murtha were a businessman, he'd be the biggest employer in this town." Wilke notes one Murtha-supported business in particular: "Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha's Johnstown Minute Car Wash."

You can take your pick as to which of Murtha's programs to pick on for waste or worthlessness, and Wilke chooses a few. But the recent firestorm over the National Drug Intelligence Center is a good case in point:

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Expect to hear a lot more about this.

You might remember that the first official word from U.S. officials about the Nisour Square shootings was a preliminary investigation by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (BDS) that relied primarily on statements from Blackwater witnesses. Now we find out that the BDS offered immunity to those guards for those statements. So not only did the State Department rush to release what appears from the military's review of the incident to be a whitewash -- but it might have also fatally compromised the FBI's investigation of the incident. From the AP:

The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department's criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.

Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.

At that point, the Justice Department shifted the investigation to prosecutors in its national security division, sealing the guards' statements and attempting to build a case based on other evidence from a crime scene that was then already two weeks old....

It's not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.

Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.

Here's some strange news coming out of the Alaska trial of former state Rep. Vic Kohring. It turns out that when former Veco CEO Bill Allen testified last month in a separate corruption trial about being blackmailed by his own nephew, the strong-arming was related to Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) suspect home renovation.

Allen was defensive on the stand that day, the Anchorage Daily News reported, combating questioning from defense attorneys that he actually threatened to kill his nephew:

Allen said he didn’t make such a threat. “Not me, no. I told them (him?) I’d beat the shit out of him,” Allen said.

Later, he said: “I never did say that I would kill him. No. I wouldn’t have done that … because his mother is my sister.”


Today Allen clarified while under cross-examination that his nephew was blackmailing him over “Ted Stevens’ house.” Just what his nephew was threatening to do (go to the feds?) is unclear.

Allen also testified again today that Veco paid for some of the renovations that doubled Stevens' home, but he didn’t know how much Veco spent.

Friday night, we reported that the House Judiciary Committee had mistakenly sent the email addresses of would-be whistleblowers to everyone who had written in to the committee's Justice Department politicization tip line. A committee spokesperson responded to that story with a statement apologizing for the "technological error."

In a statement released this afternoon (which can be read in full below) a committee spokesperson clarified that the error was, in fact, human. For those of you interested in the nitty gritty, the "nonpartisan, clerical employee" of the committee who was tasked with sending the email out to the list screwed up by assuming that checking "private" in Microsoft Outlook's Distribution List function meant that recipient names would be hidden. Alas, not so.

The full statement is below.

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For a company that was supposed to be outside the law, investigations of Blackwater have been proliferating like wild ever since the September 16th Nisour Square shooting, which left seventeen Iraqis dead. The number has been growing so fast, in fact, that we lost count.

So we decided to catch up. Here, then, is our rundown of the ongoing investigations that have been reported. If we miss one, let us know and we'll update our tally.

House oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has, of course, been leading the charge over the preceding months in an investigation that has followed a number of strands. Waxman's probe of the 2004 ambush in Fallujah led to the conclusion that Blackwater's cost-cutting was at the heart of the debacle. And he's continued to widen the scope of the probe since the Nisour Square shootings. As such, it's impossible to detail all of its aspects here. It's concentrated, however, on four main areas:

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Oh well. John "Pat" Philbin's career with the Director of National Intelligence is indeed over before it started. From the AP:

"We do not normally comment on personnel matters," DNI spokesman Ross Feinstein said Monday. "However, we can confirm that Mr. Philbin is not, nor is he scheduled to be, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."

Feinstein said earlier that Philbin's job change had been put on hold while McConnell reviewed his record.


We assume that Philbin will be holding a press conference with himself in the wake of this development.

Voting rights section chief John Tanner has apologized for saying earlier this month that "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do: They die first."

The apology went out to a number of attendees of the National Latino Congreso, where Tanner made the remarks. You can see one of them, to the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, here. The letter is dated Friday, October 26, a week after Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) publicly called for Tanner to be fired based on those remarks.

In the letter, Tanner does not recant his analysis that voter ID laws actually discriminate against whites, but does apologize that his "explanation of the data came across in a hurtful way." Others who worked in the Justice Department, of course, including Toby Moore, a former redistricting expert in the section who will testifying alongside Tanner tomorrow, disagreed with more than his tone.

The full text of the letter is below:

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John "Pat" Philbin's choice to fake a FEMA press conference on the California wildfires late last week isn't looking like the greatest career move.

Before setting up the phony press conference -- in which FEMA staffers pretended to be journalists while real journalists on a conference call couldn't ask fire-related questions -- Philbin, FEMA's press chief, was all set to take a job helming public affairs for the director of national intelligence, Admiral Mike McConnell. McConnell's credibility has come under attack recently over misstatements concerning surveillance, so Philbin's arrival at the DNI's office might have looked a bit fishy. When I asked McConnell's spokesman, Ross Feinstein, about Philbin, Feinstein commented simply, "We do not discuss internal personnel matters."

But while today was supposed to be Philbin's first day, he's still transitioning from FEMA to the high-secrecy world of the DNI, starting with instruction on how to handle classified information. That process was supposed to consume Philbin's first day -- think of it as an Intel Flack 101 crash course -- but now Feinstein tells the AP's Pam Hess that Philbin might be in bureaucratic limbo a little while longer, if he ever emerges. According to Hess, Philbin's new job is "on hold" while McConnell reviews Philbin's record. That doesn't augur well for the man whose old FEMA online bio page has been speedily expunged from the site.

When John Tanner, the chief of the Justice Department's voting rights section, goes before Congress tomorrow, he'll have a lot to answer for.

One of the most uncomfortable topics, to be sure, will be continuing charges of discrimination in the section that is supposed to be the font of civil rights enforcement -- charges that point squarely at Tanner himself. Things became so bad that a 33-year veteran analyst sent out an email to colleagues on her last day last December: "I leave with fond memories of the Voting Section I once knew, and I am gladly escaping the 'Plantation' it has become. For my colleagues still under the 'whip', hold on - 'The Times They are A Changing.'"

In an interview with NPR, that analyst, Teresa Lynn, made clear who was holding the whip in that metaphor. It was "aimed toward the leadership of the section," she said, "both the section chief [Tanner] and the deputy chief of section five [Yvette Rivera]." Lynn told NPR that she got "high fives" from her former colleagues for her parting shot.

We first reported on charges of discrimination in the section -- charges that resulted in at least two Equal Employment Opportunity complaints from African-American employees -- in May. But the same problems still persist today, Carl Goldman, executive director of AFSCME's Council 26, the union that represents non-attorney staff in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, told me:

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