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Prosecutors subpoenaed Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) for 11 years-worth of records as part of the ongoing Abramoff investigation, the AP reports:

Prosecutors recently demanded documents from Doolittle and five staffers, the congressman said. The subpoenas seek "virtually every record including legislative records" for the past 11 years, Doolittle's attorney David Barger said in a news release issued Thursday by the congressman's office.

"These efforts raise serious constitutional issues going to the very core of our separation of powers created by the Founding Fathers," Barger said.

The Constitution prohibits the executive branch from using its law enforcement powers to interfere with legislative business. Barger said he and Doolittle would "be vigilant" to ensure Congress' independence is "vigorously protected." Any court challenge would go before a federal judge, but the documents would be sealed.


The standoff could lead to a court battle like the William Jefferson (R-LA) case over the speech and debate clause. When a federal court called the FBI's decision to take legislative documents out of Jefferson's office unconstitutional, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Melanie Sloan said it was a great day for corrupt lawmakers.

The Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act is a bill that you wouldn't think anyone could possibly be against. And yet, the Republican leadership in the Senate has gone to considerable lengths to stop it -- recently by brazenly insisting on an amendment that would effectively discourage groups from filing ethics complaints against senators. Without that amendment, which Democrats reasonably call a poison pill designed to sink the bill, Republicans say it's not going anywhere.

Here's what the bill would do. Candidates for the Senate file paper versions of their campaign disclosure reports. The bill would require those reports to be filed electronically. That's it.

The House moved to that system six years ago -- which is why it's called the campaign disclosure "parity" act. The bill has forty co-sponsors, among them conservative Republicans, such as Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and John Cornyn (R-TX). A cynic might say that the only rational reason for opposing the bill would be if you wanted to make it harder for people to discover who's been giving to your campaign.

When the bill came to the floor this spring, it was blocked twice by an anonymous Republican senator, using what's called a "secret hold." (Here's our hunt last summer for those behind secret holders on another bill.) But that tactic was forbidden by the Democrats' recent ethics bill, and so when the bill came up again earlier this week, the senator who came forward to block it identified himself. It was Sen. John Ensign (R-NV).

Only Ensign didn't say that he was blocking it. In fact he said that he has "no objection" to the bill. But he insisted on offering an amendment. His bill would require all non-profits that file ethics complaints against senators to disclose all donors who gave $5,000 or more. His bill, he said on the floor, was designed to "protect individual Senators from purely politically motivated ethics complaints that come against us that sometimes we will have to run up legal bills and all kinds of other things." Without any evident irony he added: "transparency is the best way to do it."

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After giving the press "no comments" since the FBI raided his home in August, Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK) finally spoke yesterday. And what did he have to say? Stevens told a Fairbanks Daily News Miner reporter that he's on "frosty" terms with Gov. Sarah Palin (R), and she should think carefully about how she spends Alaska's federal bridge to nowhere money.

Short about $329 million to build the bridge that would have connected an island of 50 people to a more densely populated, neighboring island, Palin told transportation officials to direct the $200 million to an alternative project like an upgraded ferry system.

Stevens worries the federal government might want the money back, even though the language that targeted the money to the project was stripped from the bill after it became a scandal. Alaska got the money just the same, however, and Stevens has never admitted defeat.

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Also in Waxman's report on the 2004 lynching of Blackwater contractors in Fallujah is an expletive-laden internal assessment of the quality of the company's Baghdad shop at the time.

One Blackwater employee described it as "flat out a sloppy f**king operation" and further stated:

The caliber of most of the people here is not what it needs to be. More training, more discipline, and a more selective screening process are needed. ... Some of these lazy f**ks care about one thing, money. I suggest if you continue to employ that kind of trash, that you develop a way to use "their money" as a way to get them to do some f**king work. This "I'm not in the military any more, I can do as I please/ I know I can't afford to loose [sic] more guys" bulls**t is a non-starter.


Waxman is holding hearings next week on Blackwater and Iraq contracting corruption issues. It'll be interesting to hear Blackwater explain how its standards have improved from 2004 to 2007. After all, they've gotten more State Department work than any other contractor, so they must be getting better -- right?

Right on the heels of a Brookings Institution report detailing the problems private military companies create for counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has released a study finding that Blackwater improperly prepared its contractors for traveling through Fallujah in March 2004 -- a trip that proved to be fatal.

Internal Blackwater reviews and eyewitness accounts obtained by Waxman's oversight committee conclude that the company sent its four employees to Fallujah in what one disgusted Blackwater colleague called "unarmored, underpowered vehicles." The day before the ambush, Blackwater's Baghdad operations manager complained to the company's North Carolina headquarters that he was in dire need of weapons, ammunition, communications equipment and "hard cars." Yet Waxman's report (pdf) cites another employee who says Blackwater opted to go with "soft skin" -- that is, unarmored vehicles -- "due to the cost."

But it wasn't just the cost. Blackwater's reliance on unarmored vehicles was part of a scheme to undercut a competitor, the Kuwaiti company Regency Hotel & Hospital, in order to gain control of a contract Regency held with ESS Support Services Worldwide, which in turn had valuable contracts with Kellogg, Brown & Root and Fluor.

Several reports by Blackwater personnel in Baghdad and Kuwait indicate that Blackwater never intended to armor its vehicles, which included Honda Pilot SUVs, but instead force Regency into purchasing new vehicles or risk losing its role on the ESS contract. ... A second Blackwater employee reported that he was told to "string these guys along and run this Honda thing into the ground" because "if we stalled long enough they (Regency) would have no choice but to buy armored cars, or to default on the contract, and ESS might go directly to Blackwater for security."
A Blackwater lawyer told the committee in February the contractors were given an "appropriate" amount of protection for the threat environment in Fallujah.

As if serving subpoenas on twelve members of the House wasn't enough, Brent Wilkes' lawyers apparently issued subpoenas to a number of senators and administration figures as well, it was disclosed today. At least two of those subpoenas, however, have not been served yet.

In a filing today by the House's lawyers seeking to quash the twelve subpoenas, the House's general counsel reveals that he'd been advised by an investigator for Wilkes' lawyer Mark Geragos earlier this month that subpoenas had also been issued to:

-- Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) -- Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) -- Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) -- White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten -- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England.

A spokesperson for Sen. Levin said that he had not been served with a subpoena, and a spokesman for Sen. Rockefeller said the same, adding that the Senate legal counsel had told him that they hadn't received anything. So it may be that Geragos has decided to hold off serving those additional subpoenas, at least for now. (Update: Sen. Craig's spokesman also said that he had not been served. Later Update: Ditto for Sen. Inouye.)

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During a time of significant military overstretch, private security companies hired by the Defense Department have been actively recruiting U.S. troops. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee that he's considering no-recruit clauses for future contracts in order to ensure retention doesn't suffer.

"My personal concern about some of these security contracts is that I worry that sometimes the salaries they are able to pay in fact lures some of our soldiers out of the service to go to work for them," he said.

Gates said he was seeking legal advice on whether a "non-compete" clause could be put into security contracts that limits this problem.


Hard data measuring the direct effect contractor recruitment has on military retention is difficult, since retention rates don't factor in reasons for leaving. However, says contractor expert P.W. Singer of the Brookings Institution, there's a flurry of anecdotal evidence that contractor recruitment is intense. "Military folks talk about getting business cards handed to them while in Iraq," he says. Additionally, the impact of contractor recruitment can be seen in the recently-raised retention bonuses that the Defense Department has offered re-upping troops: "There are competing offers out there now."

The problem is particularly acute in specialty disciplines, like Special Operations and explosive ordnance disposal, which contractors consider particularly lucrative. (Blackwater is staffed by many veterans of the Special Operations community, and its founder, Erik Prince, is an ex-Navy SEAL.) A recent study Singer directed at Brookings on military readiness, titled "Bent But Not Broken," found that elite military units have had greater difficulty than the general services in meeting their enlisted-personnel goals. Clearly, not all of that can be attributed to contractor influence, but "it's a factor among other reasons," he says.

As expected, the House of Representatives' general counsel filed a motion yesterday arguing that none of the 12 lawmakers subpoenaed by Brent Wilkes should have to show.

Wilkes, remember, is on the hook for allegedly bribing Duke Cunningham. When pressed by the House's lawyers, his lawyer refused to reveal the method behind the madness, only insisting that all 12 lawmakers show up to testify at Wilkes' trial.

The House's lawyers argued that the information sought by Wilkes is "absolutely privileged" under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution.

To add one thing to what the Boss observed about Blackwater being involved in the most shooting incidents of any State Department contractor, consider these two excerpts from The New York Times' piece today. First:

The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq. Officials familiar with the internal State Department reports would not provide the actual statistics, but they indicated that the records showed that Blackwater personnel were involved in dozens of episodes in which they had resorted to force.

The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq.


And then this:

Last year, the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq, reducing the roles of DynCorp and Triple Canopy.


Blackwater workers in Iraq outnumber those for the other two contractors by more than 2 to 1.

However aggressively Blackwater operates, the State Department clearly approves. No wonder experts consider pointing a finger exclusively at the company to be misleading.

State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard isn't just in trouble at work. Yesterday, Krongard's son sought a restraining order against his father. The two are currently engaged in a lawsuit over a defaulted home loan, and the inspector general has been sending threatening and "unprofessional" emails to his son. (Washington Post)

A district court has ruled that the FISA Act, as extended under the Patriot Act is unconstitutional, as it allows the government to collect information in violation of the 4th Amendment. Key line from the judge: "For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised." (Boston Globe)

Strike three and you're out? Yesterday, the House oversight committee held its third hearing on Walter Reed, and the GAO issued a report on the same topic. Witnesses for the DOD informed Congress that it will take at least eight months to complete major improvements in the mental health care of soldiers and the GAO report shows that disability payments are delayed on average of 177 days. The Army's own stats show that the level of mental health care in the war zone is the lowest since 2004. (USA Today, Politico)

A Texas court upheld its own decision to dismiss conspiracy charges against former Rep. Tom "The Hammer" Delay (R-TX). Delay still faces charges of money laundering. (AP)

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