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Forget about the frustration at the slow pace of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. You know it's got to really burn the administration to miss a good chance for a PR coup.

But as The Washington Post reports this morning, things are moving at such a glacial pace down in sunny Guantanamo that it seems impossible at this point that any of the September 11th suspects will begin trial before the election -- or even before the Bush administration leaves office.

You know that's got to burn because of comments made by the Pentagon officials heading up the trials. The former chief prosecutor there testified that he was told that he should really push to land plea deals or indictments before the election. And another member of the prosecution team said the Pentagon's top legal adviser in its commissions office wanted to pursue certain cases ahead of others because they would "seize the imagination of the American public" and make a splash.

But the only case that seems at all likely to go to trial before the election is that of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the alleged driver for Osama bin Laden. And the pretrial hearings for that have been far from pretty -- with Gitmo's former chief prosecutor testifying about the politicization of the system, and Hamdan, who says he has been addled by torture and prolonged solitary confinement, himself proclaiming that he won't participate in what he sees as a rigged system.

The apparent problem is that it just takes a long time to work out the kinks of a made-up process. As a lawyer from Human Rights Watch puts it, "Every little detail ends up being contested, because it's an entirely new system of justice."

But administration officials are trying to keep their chins up, their eyes on the prize. In answering criticisms that the process will be occasionally and arbitrarily shielded from the press, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the top legal authority in the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions and the man who was, according to those prosecutors referenced above, so keen on landing indictments before the elections, is unapologetic. Certain things have to be blocked from the press to ensure that classified or sensitive information is not disseminated, he says. And besides, who needs publicity?

Hartmann said that within the military commissions process, "the principal obligation is not to the press," and that the cases are full, fair and open because of the rights afforded to the defendants. "That's what we do in the American system of justice," he said.

The next step in the House Judiciary Committee's attempts to hear from the architects of the administration's interrogation policy: the panel just voted to authorize a subpoena for David Addington. Last week, Addington indicated that he might appear to testify if the committee subpoenaed him. It's not clear yet when that hearing might be.

The committee also is seeking to hear from John Yoo, John Ashcroft, Doug Feith, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel Daniel Levin. The committee continues to negotiate with all of those possible witnesses about appearing in the future, according to a press release yesterday. During the vote just now, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said that "most" of the witnesses the committee wanted to hear from had agreed to appear.

Over the weekend, there were reports of robo calls during Louisiana's 6th District special election, during which State Rep. Don Cazayoux had narrowly beaten Republican Woody Jenkins. In the calls, which went out to Baton Rouge's African-American neighborhoods on election day, a voice told voters to teach white Democrats a lesson by staying home and not voting. It signed off "Friends of Michael Jackson," according to The Advocate.

But Jackson, an African-American state lawmaker who'd lost in the primary to Cazayoux, said he had nothing to do with the calls. So whodunnit?

The answer: Darrell Glasper, who told me that he was a political independent who'd made the calls because he said African-Americans "have been loyal for so long and received so little." Glasper, an African-American, said that he was an acquaintance and supporter of Jackson's, but that he'd made the calls without Jackson's knowledge and had stopped the calls at Jackson's request. He'd made 10,000 or so by that time, he said.

Glasper's company Magnolia Computers came up on the caller ID for the robo calls, reported a reader of the local blog The Daily Kingfish. The Daily Kingfish also had a transcript of the calls:

"I'm very upset that the National Democratic Party favored Don Cazayoux from New Roads over Michael Jackson. The Democratic Party raised $850,000 for Don Cazayoux which is the only reason Michael Jackson lost in the Democratic runoff. The National and State Democratic Parties always seem to back the white democrat over the black democrat and that's wrong. A lot of us who are supporting Michael Jackson feel the National Democratic Party need to be taught a lesson. We're not voting for Don Cazayoux because we believe Woody Jenkins will be a lot easier to beat in November when Senator Barack Obama is on the ballot. You haven't heard many black elected officials supporting Don Cazayoux. On Saturday we're going to stay home and see how the National Democratic Party do without us."

"Paid for by Friends of Michael Jackson."


Glasper told me that he'd been frustrated by the Democratic Party's lack of support for Jackson when he'd run in the primary against the white Cazayoux -- there was no get out the vote operation, he said, and "without money in the community Jackson couldn't make it." But that support, he said, materialized on Cazayoux's behalf in the general election. "That's my interpretation of how they play the political games." (Of course, there's nothing remarkable in the fact that the party did not run a GOTV effort within the Dem primary but did against the Republican candidate.)

When I asked him why he'd signed off the calls "Friends of Michael Jackson," when the calls were not in fact from Jackson's campaign, he said "I'm a friend of Michael Jackson's." When I pressed, he said that the calls "may have said friends or by a friend," he can't remember.

But Glasper, who up until recently served as chairman of BREC, an agency that operates public park and recreation facilities and programs throughout East Baton Rouge Parish, was unapologetic about the calls. When I told him that the Louisiana State Democratic Party said the calls violated election law and were likely to take the matter to court, he told me "This is America, you can say what you want."

From The National Law Journal:

Congress is close to enacting the most significant boost in three decades in the independence of the cadre of government watchdogs -- federal inspectors general -- but the lawmakers have retreated from a key change involving the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Senate on April 23 approved, by unanimous consent, S. 2324, the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008. But the bill passed only after the lawmakers agreed to an amendment by Senator Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., which, among other items, deleted a provision giving the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) jurisdiction to investigate misconduct allegations against department attorneys, including its most senior officials.

Unlike all other OIGs who can investigate misconduct within their entire agency, Justice's OIG must refer allegations against department attorneys to the department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). The latter office, unlike the OIG, is not statutorily independent and reports directly to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general....

President Bush had threatened to veto the House bill for a variety of reasons. The Kyl amendment to the Senate bill was seen by many as a vehicle for the White House's objections.


OPR, which reports to the attorney general, is currently conducting a variety of very sensitive investigations for the administration. The office is probing the Department's approval of the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. And recently it announced that it is investigating the Department's legal memos authorizing the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture by CIA and military interrogators.

It is conducting those probes because Inspector General Glenn Fine cannot. The bill which passed the House would have changed that, as Fine himself pointed out in a letter (pdf) to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) back in February, when he told them that he could not investigate the Department's authorization of torture because "under current law, the OIG does not have jurisdiction to review the actions of DOJ attorneys acting in their capacity to provide legal advice." Fine added: "Legislation that would remove this limitation has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, but at this point the OIG does not have jurisdiction to undertake the review you request."

And with Kyl's amendment, it appears that Fine won't be getting that jurisdiction any time soon.

The National Law Journal quotes a former DoJ IG on why some people want to tie Fine's hands:

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Former GSA chief Lurita Doan tells her story about how she got the axe:

Q: Tell us about the logistics of how this all happened. It's been pretty much universally reported that you were asked to resign by the White House. If you could tell us if that is indeed what happened, and then if you could tell us how it happened.

Doan: Well Francis, you know, it's a real thrill to go to the White House. You get to walk up that curved drive to the West Wing, and.... and I have a deep, and a really lasting respect for President Bush who... who I believe is a truly great man, but... but during my 22 months as Administrator of GSA, I had never met with any senior White House person - not once. So here I am, I'm sitting down for the first time with (White House Chief of Staff) Josh Bolton and (White House Counsel) Fred Fielding and less than thirty seconds into the meeting I was told that the White House is requesting my resignation. It was humbling, and frankly, it was bizarre. So naturally, I immediately stated "I serve at the pleasure of the President" and I immediately gave my resignation, but... but it was absolutely surreal.

Q: Was there any discussion of why this was happening?

Doan: Of course I naturally asked why do they want my resignation.... [A]nd I was surprised to be told that from the White House point of view I was considered - and this is a direct quote - a "distraction".


As Government Executive reported last week, Doan doesn't think that her firing had anything to do with the alleged Hatch Act violations -- but rather with her ongoing feud with the GSA's inspector general.

More score settling. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez opens fire on Bernie Kerik's time training the Iraqi police in Iraq:

"He is a very energetic guy. He is very confident - overconfident to an extent - and he is very superficial in his understanding of the requirements of his job," Sanchez said. "His whole contribution was a waste of time and effort."...

Sanchez said Kerik focused more on "conducting raids and liberating prostitutes" than training the Iraqis.

"They'd get tips and they'd go and actually raid a whorehouse," Sanchez told The News. "Their focus becomes trying to do tactical police operations in the city of Baghdad, when in fact there is a much greater mission that they should be doing, which is training the police."...

Kerik denied arresting any prostitutes in Iraq and said the Army always knew about his operations.

To call Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons' tenure troubled doesn't quite capture it.

It started off with a bang with accusations that he'd drunkenly assaulted a cocktail waitress in a parking garage in the middle of the night. That probe was eventually closed due to insufficient evidence. And then there's the federal investigation as to whether he took bribes from a defense contractor while he was a congressman. And now he's seeking a very public divorce from his wife.

Yes, there have been happier times, such as during this 2005 cruise, which was paid for by his defense contractor buddy:

A former aide to Reps. Jane Harman (D-CA) and Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) was sentenced to six months in jail for embezzling money from her employers' accounts to help fund political campaigns. Investigators are looking into other congressional staff members and their involvement into similar campaign-support activity at the request of their bosses. (Wash Post)

The role of defense contractors in Iraq will increase soon, as the military officials are openly calling for such privatized troops to live with (for the first time) Iraqi military groups while they help train the fledgling army. Defense contracting has come under scrutiny from Congress of late, yet one Pentagon official says the step of using non-U.S. military is a "natural step" in the training of the Iraqis as American forces draw down. (The Hill and Washington Post)

A major defense contractor used by the U.S. in Iraq, MPRI out of Virginia, was found to have used a shell company in Bermuda to subcontract the defense work. The offshore companies set up to avoid taxation were started just months after signing a $400 million contract to provide military support in Iraq. (Boston Globe)

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Five years after the invasion of Iraq, there seems to have been a rash of accounting lately.

Consider: in March, the Joint Forces Command released (after a pathetic attempt at squelching it) a report definitively proving that there were no operational links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Al Qaeda. That same month, The New York Times provided a detailed account of Paul Bremer's infamous decision to disband the Iraqi Army. And then of course there's Doug Feith's book, which purports to show how things would have gone so much better if everyone had just listened to Doug Feith -- a thesis that's necessarily met incredulity in a number of brutal interviews.

Some of this is just because enough time has passed that the players feel safe giving interviews. But then there's also the case of suppressed information that's finally seeing the light of day. In February, for example, the Times revealed that a 2005 report by the publicly-funded RAND Corporation had been buried because its conclusions were inconvenient. The report faulted just about everyone in the administration for not adequately preparing for securing postwar Iraq.

And here's what appears to be another example of a buried report. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq from the beginning of the occupation until 2004, has written a memoir. And he has a couple scores to settle. One, to be sure, is that he thinks he was scapegoated for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The other has to do with how he was left in command of Iraq with far too few troops.

In an excerpt from the book published in Time, Sanchez tells how Rumsfeld, two years after that disastrous year in Iraq, called Sanchez into his office to try to diffuse blame. Rumsfeld hadn't known that Sanchez, commander of the Army's V Corps, was left in charge while CENTCOM and CFLCC [coalition land forces] staffs had pulled out, he said, and he'd written a memo of that official version to prove it.

But Sanchez wasn't buying it, he writes, and told Rumsfeld, "I just can't believe you didn't know." Rumsfeld flipped out. The meeting ended, Sanchez writes, with Rumsfeld saying that he was going to order a report to find out what happened. But that didn't go so well:

[Adm. Ed Giambastiani, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] assigned the task to the Joint Warfighting Center and gave them a pretty tight timeline. So it wasn't long before I was giving the investigative team a complete rundown of everything that had happened in Iraq between May and June 2003. I later learned that Gen. Tommy Franks, however, had refused to speak with them.

A few months later, I was making a presentation at the Joint Warfighting Center and ran across several of the people involved with the study. "Say, did you guys ever complete that investigation?" I asked.

"Oh, yes sir. We sure did," came the reply. "And let me tell you, it was ugly."

"Ugly?" I asked.

"Yes, sir. Our report validated everything you told us -- that Franks issued the orders to discard the original twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment, that the forces were drawing down, that we were walking away from the mission, and that everybody knew about it. And let me tell you, the Secretary did not like that one bit. After we went in to brief him, he just shut us down. 'This is not going anywhere,' he said. 'Oh, and by the way, leave all the copies right here and don't talk to anybody about it.'"

"You mean he embargoed all the copies of the report?" I asked.

"Yes, sir, he did."

From that, my belief was that Rumsfeld's intent appeared to be to minimize and control further exposure within the Pentagon and to specifically keep this information from the American public.


Update: Here's William Arkin's take on Sanchez.

The last time we checked in with Kwame "Busted Is What You See!" Kilpatrick, he was denying all charges, saying he'd been punished by God, and continuing to serve as Mayor of Detroit. This week brought more of the same.

On Tuesday, the full slew of the hundreds of text messages exchanged between Kilpatrick and former Chief of Staff Beatty were released. And Kilpatrick? To quote another American fabulist, Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

The messages, written over four months in 2002 and 2003, were originally intended to be released at the time of Kilpatrick and Beatty's trial for retaliating against city police whistleblowers in August 2007. But as we've noted before, Kilpatrick's lawyers fought hard to keep them under wraps -- all in vain, because The Detroit Free Press got their hands on them. These new messages were also released to the Press as a result of the paper's lawsuit against the City of Detroit for more information on the mayor's secret $8.4 million settlement with the whistleblowers, a key part of which was to keep the text messages private.

The text messages run the gamut of evidence from indications that Beatty and Kilpatrick had been conspiring to orchestrate the removal of the whistleblowing police officers to lots and lots of sex talk... with a lot of LOL thrown in for good measure (the Kilpatricks still maintain a house on Leslie Street, in addition to the mayor's mansion):



But he has sobered up a bit since then. Late Tuesday, during a budget plan meeting with city residents he said:

"It's unfortunate that in Detroit only, you're guilty till proven innocent," he told the group of about 100. "There's a lot of bad information being presented in front of you, and hopefully by the end of this, we'll all see things pretty clearly."

Afterward, he told reporters: "I don't think that, at all, this is a smoking gun that everybody thought it would be."


And with that, everyone continues to await Kilpatrick's magical exoneration.

However, Detroit's hopes for a new mayor remain cloudy. One of the problems may be that the judge presiding over Kilpatrick's upcoming criminal trial, Ronald Giles, is a family friend and contributor to Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy requested that he be removed from the case, but District Chief Judge Marylin Atkins refused to remove Giles, or any other judge.

In a nine-page decision, Atkins concluded there was no basis to remove Giles or any other judges.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy called Atkins' decisions "particularly disturbing" and "sadly incomplete."

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