TPM News

Through his seat on the House intelligence committee from 2001 through 2006, ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) was able to funnel between $70 and $80 million in taxpayer dollars to his favored contractors. And it didn't matter that both Mitch Wade, who's pled guilty to bribing Cunningham, and Brent Wilkes, who's been indicted for bribing him, didn't have much in the way of qualifications. That's because Cunningham's colleagues on the committee stayed mum as Cunningham funneled project after bogus project to them.

Cunningham's doings were no secret. At one point, a committee aide even sent out a staff e-mail about one of Wade's program, saying, "HOOAH! Another $5 million of taxpayer money wasted."

Members of the committee are still trying to keep the sham quiet, reports The Los Angeles Times.

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In the first 5 ½ years of the war on terror, the CIA filed not a single occurrence of legal violation to an independent oversight board, even while the FBI filed a few hundred potential violations. Still, filing with a group whose responsibility is to inform the President and Attorney General of potentially unlawful intelligence actions might not have mattered; the group’s board was vacant for the first two years of the administration. (Washington Post)

The new mandatory fashion in Baghdad’s Green Zone: flak vests and Kevlar helmets. Following a Saturday mortar attack on the Green Zone, McClatchy News obtained a copy of an internal memo issued by the American embassy in Baghdad that ordered Green Zone inhabitants to wear protective gear at all times. (McClatchy Newspapers)

An American employee of a Halliburton subsidiary pleaded guilty to receiving favors in exchange for awarding a Kuwaiti company millions in contracts. Roger Heaton worked for KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, and reportedly received nearly $200,000 for awarding two major contracts. Heaton faces ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (New York Times)

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What used to be a blunder is now a disaster. Pakistani jihadists killed dozens of people in Waziristan and declared war on General Pervez Musharraf's government, abrogating a foolhardy truce they signed with Musharraf last year that gave them time and breathing space to regroup.

In September 2006, Musharraf, president of Pakistan, made an enormous mistake. Seeking to end a bloody and politically troublesome conflict with al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in the tribal province of Waziristan, Musharraf and several militant leaders negotiated a truce. The terms were fairly simple: If Musharraf withdrew his army from the province, the jihadists would expel "foreigners" -- meaning al-Qaeda -- cease provocations against the government, and prevent cross-border exfiltration of militants into neighboring Afghanistan.

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Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) used to cut seedy political deals over well-done steak at the posh Capital Grille. Jim Black had to settle for the bathroom at the local IHOP.

Black, a former Democrat in the North Carolina state legislature, was sentenced to five years in prison this week. (You can read the sentencing memorandum here.) Black admitted last February that he accepted bribes from three local chiropractors sometime between 2000 and 2002 in exchange for bringing chiropractor-friendly legislation to the floor.

But the real intrigue began in 2002, when state Republicans regained control of the House by a razor-thin 61-59 margin. Black, then Speaker at the time, had no plans to hand over the job. Enter the International House of Pancakes and long-time state Republican Michael Decker. Meeting in the restroom of the chain made famous for providing 24-hour access to flapjacks, Black struck a quick deal. In exchange for $50,000 and some party perks, Decker would switch affiliations and support Black in his bid for Speaker. Decker declared his newfound transformation into a Democrat, pocketed his $50,000 in cash and campaign contributions ad Black landed a job as co-speaker. Keep in mind that these charges did not come up in his criminal case, but he has admitted in civil court to paying Decker to switch parties.

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Another Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy employee has pleaded guilty to tax evasion as part of the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

Environmental and energy policy news site Greenwire has the story (sub required):

Jared Carpenter, CREA's vice president since 2000, admitted July 6 he failed to pay taxes for three years on about $238,000 worth of salary between 2001 and 2003 -- when the group was funded primarily by Abramoff's Indian tribal clients.

Last month, CREA co-founder Italia Federici pleaded guilty to a similar tax evasion count and for lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee about her role as an intermediary between Abramoff and former Interior Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles (Greenwire, June 8).

Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee John Conyers (D-MI) warned Harriet Miers' attorney today that the former White House counsel will risk contempt proceedings unless she complies with a committee-issued subpoena for testimony.

Miers was supposed to testify before a Judiciary subcommittee yesterday on the US attorney firings, but she did not appear after a White House attorney instructed her to stay home. The White House claims that executive privilege cloaks Miers from testifying.

Chair of the sub-committee, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) disagreed with that assertion, and ruled yesterday that the executive privilege claim wasn't properly asserted anyway.

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Yesterday's White House "benchmark" report on Iraq noted some backsliding on Iraqi troop readiness, in particular on the important question of whether Iraqi troops can operate independently.

At his press briefing this afternoon, the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Marine General Peter Pace, conceded the point, and clarified that the number of Iraqi Army battalions operating independently has declined from ten in January to six today. But he also cautioned against reading too much into the drop-off:

Let's concede Pace's point that as "units operate in the field" they incur casualties and equipment damage that impact readiness. That's military reality. But the broader question is why there aren't offsetting increases for those declines based upon improved capabilities among other battalions as they progress from being "in the lead" of operations to outright independence. Pace concedes the issue when he talks about wanting to see battalions progress through the overall readiness assessments. That, however, should probably make Pace more concerned about the backsliding than he emphasized this afternoon.

The Republican National Committee has been slapped with a subpoena from a House Judiciary subcommittee demanding e-mail messages that could shed some light on Karl Rove's involvement in the firing of nine US attorneys.

The subpoena is online here. The RNC's custodian of records has until Tuesday at 10 a.m. to give the subcommittee the e-mails it wants.

The House Judiciary Committee was more friendly with the RNC in April when it sent a letter asking for the e-mails. The White House jumped in and told the RNC not to hand them over until all the messages had been reviewed, citing an "executive branch interest."

Ever since a March report by the Justice Department's inspector general highlighted mistakes made by the FBI in obtaining e-mail and financial records without a court order -- through what's known as a National Security Letter -- Bureau and DOJ officials have pledged to establish institutional safeguards against further abuse.

Today Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that attorneys will form an oversight office within DOJ's National Security Division to examine "all aspects of the FBI's national security program for compliance with laws, regulations, and guidelines," according to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth L. Wainstein. Additionally, FBI will create an integrity and compliance office for internal policing over all FBI activities, which a DOJ announcement terms a "substantial innovation."

Time and further scrutiny will tell how exactly this will all work -- to say nothing of how well -- but Wainstein termed the move "historic." One question: will there be an office in place to ensure that Gonzales reads reports he receives about FBI abuse?

Additionally, in a letter to Vice President Dick Cheney and congressional leaders, Mueller and Gonzales noted that the FBI has just completed a "historical audit of the FBI's use of NSLs in all 56 field offices." The two say that it largely confirms the inspector generals' findings. We'll bring you the report as soon as we have it.

In his first public remarks since President Bush commuted Scooter Libby's prison term, Judge Reggie Walton said he was "perplexed" by the president's belief that Walton's sentence was "excessive."

Walton, a Bush appointee to the D.C. district court, wrote yesterday in a court filing that while he doesn't question Bush's constitutional authority to commute prison sentences, Libby's 30-month sentence was "consistent with the bottom end of the applicable sentencing range as properly calculated under the United States Sentencing Guidelines." Underscoring his displeasure with the commutation -- which calls his professionalism into question -- Walton referenced Alberto Gonzales's June 1 statement that sentencing guidelines should be considered "a minimum for judges, not merely a suggestion." By ordering the commutation, Walton wrote, Bush has "has effectively rewritten the statutory scheme" for sentencing "on an ad hoc basis." Perhaps appropriately for a Bush appointee, Walton is basically explaining that judicial restraint compelled him to follow the sentencing guidelines -- and that 30 months in jail is rather merciful, considering what the guidelines require.

Libby will have to report to the federal Probation Office with "all requisite haste." If he doesn't, he might actually spend a night in jail.

You can read Walton's statement here.