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Did anyone ever think the surge was going to work? The Washington Post walks through the history of the surge, from the fallacy of the "Anbar miracle," the false assurances of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the reluctance of the Maliki government. Most striking is the raging dissension between Petraeus and his commanding officer, who is responsible for the greater Middle East region (Afghanistan, anyone? Horn of Africa?). With Petraeus on the Hill this week, it is easy to get lost in the minutiae; take a few minutes to refresh yourself on how far the policy has strayed. (Washington Post)

The bombs are dropping in six minutes! Well, not quite that dramatic, but getting close from CIA Director Michael Hayden, who claimed Friday that the waning public and political support for new "aggressive" CIA methods was creating a world that felt an awful lot like September 10th. (LA Times)

Remember back in the day when you had to be on the government's A-list to get one of those coveted National Security Letters? It turns out they weren't as exclusive as we thought. The FBI, until recently, had been obtaining information (without the use of warrants) about targeted suspects and their "community of interest"- aka anyone with whom they are in contact. (NY Times)

Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) slept on the couch of his former chief of staff Neil Volz. Take a second to let that one sink in, then check out information released in Volz's recent court letters. Apparently Ney wasn't exactly an ideal roommate. (The Plain Dealer)

Want to hear more from David Petraeus? You're going to have to tune in to his one-hour EXCLUSIVE interview on Fox News. As in, no other networks get a shot. Not even TPM! (Think Progress)

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To an outsider, New Jersey politics often seems like a den of corruption. The latest series of arrests doesn’t do much to change that reputation.

This week, eleven local politicians and one co-conspirator were arrested as part of a statewide bribery scandal. The crowd runs the gamut of the political scene: mayors, assembly members, staffers and local council members have all been charged. The list is dominated by ten Democrats, although one Republican makes it a bipartisan affair.

The story is slowly unfolding, as the FBI has only disclosed enough information to provide probable cause for the arrests. But it is clear that the operation began in the town of Pleasantville, where FBI agents posed as representatives from an insurance company and a roofing agency. Agents met individually with members of the town’s education council, setting up deals throughout the past year to pay cash bribes in exchange for contracts.

It would have made for a quick story of small town corruption, but the Pleasantville school board members recommended that their new FBI friends look for more "business" upstate. From there, the FBI’s insurance company bounced from willing politician to willing politician, taking them to the cities of Newark, Orange, Passaic and Patterson. As in all prime cases of local corruption, underhanded deals were carried out in parked cars and restaurants.

The two highest ranked officials are Alfred Steele, a state assemblyman, and Mims Hackett, Jr., also an assemblyman as well as the mayor of Orange. It was on Steele’s recommendation that investigators were introduced to Hackett; both men promised to help the would-be insurers obtain state contracts in exchange for cash.

Christopher Christie, the U.S. Attorney leading the investigation, took a play out of the Giuliani textbook. He organized a series of public arrests complete with handcuffs and leg shackles for the twelve, who were released on bail Thursday and left to shirk the herd of reporters on their own. (Steele resorted to running away from the press, which resulted in a rush-hour traffic jam.) Still, the Democratic leadership have been quick to challenge claims that Christie is playing partisan politics. Senate President Richard Codey addressed local Democrats on Friday saying, "these questions about whether the U.S. Attorney is too political, that's not the question. He didn't put a gun to anyone's head and force them to put their hand in the cookie jar."

As of now, both Steele and Hackett look set to resign their positions on Monday. We'll see if the immediate response of outrage by local Democrats helps to ameliorate the reputation that New Jersey is still the home of Tony Soprano and dirty politicians.

Did you think that little things like a federal investigation, a crowd of Republican challengers and dismal poll numbers would keep Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) from running for reelection?

You were wrong.

In written answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bradley Schlozman, the former Justice Department official and U.S. attorney who's been at the center of the firings controversy, admitted that he'd once urged hiring certain prosecutors for his office based on their political affiliation. It's against civil service laws to do so.

But he had a reason, he explains (how good a reason, you can decide for yourself). When serving as the interim U.S. attorney for Kansas City, Schlozman had been unable to hire assistant U.S. attorneys on his own, as Senate-confirmed U.S. attorneys are able to do. For that, he had to go through the central office, or in this case, Monica Goodling, the Department's White House liaison. He'd "heard rumors," he writes,"that Ms. Goodling considered political affiliation in approving hiring decisions for career positions." Goodling, of course, admitted in testimony to Congress that she'd made sure that only Republicans were hired for certain non-political positions.

And so, Schlozman explains, in order to "maximize the chances" of being able to hire his desired candidate, he "once noted the likely political leanings of several applicants" in a conversation with Department officials.

But there was no damage done! Schlozman adds that none of his desired candidates were hired.

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From The AP:

Rep. William Jefferson accused the Justice Department of bringing corruption charges against him in Virginia to reduce the chance of drawing black jurors.

Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who has been charged in an international bribery case, made the argument Friday in federal court documents seeking to move the case to Washington.

"The court has an obligation to ensure that the forum selection in this case was not tainted by racially discriminatory motive," Jefferson's attorney, Robert P. Trout wrote.

Transportation Weekly editor Jeff Davis takes a thorough look at the historical precedent for Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) Coconut Road earmark language edit, discovering that the Supreme Court has looked at this issue before .

In the freewheeling 1890s, the court concluded in Field v. Clark that a bill signed into law is the law, despite any apparent discrepancies in the Congressional record:

Better, far better, that a provision should occasionally find its way into the statute through mistake, or even fraud, than that every act, state and national, should, at any and all times, be liable to be put in issue and impeached by the journals, loose papers of the legislature, and parol evidence. Such a state of uncertainty in the statute of laws of the land would lead to mischiefs absolutely intolerable...


Davis notes that since the Field decision, the court has grown more wary of official corruption, as reflected in McConnell v. FEC. This could mean the court would consider overturning Field in a case currently being considered for review, Public Citizen v. Clerk. It that decision did overturn Field, the entire 2005 highway bill could be found unconstitutional. That outcome seems unlikely and would certainly take a long time to reach.

In the meantime, Republicans on the House Transportation Committee have signaled that they may allow the Florida county involved to keep the money for the purpose originally described, though they do not have a concrete plan of how that would happen.

If it seems like the FBI has been mighty busy investigating public officials lately (and it certainly seems that way to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and others), it's no accident. As Peter Stone reports in August's National Journal (not available online), the FBI has put a major emphasis on bagging crooked pols:

According to FBI officials, cases involving corrupt government officials are now the bureau’s top criminal priority. The number of FBI agents focusing on public corruption has jumped by more than 40 percent—from 451 agents in fiscal 2001 to 641 in fiscal 2007. In 2005 and 2006, FBI probes were instrumental in the convictions of 1,060 government officials on corruption charges -- 177 federal officials, 158 state officials, and 725 local officials and police -- an increase of 40 percent from the previous two-year period.

In an interview with National Journal, Kenneth Kaiser, the assistant director of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, emphasized that public corruption probes typically are lengthy and require “a lot of evidence” to end in conviction. “Corruption cases are the most difficult to investigate and the most difficult to prosecute,” Kaiser said. “A lot of the time, we use very sophisticated techniques to make these cases.”

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With thanks to reader RJ, here's Iraq Body Count's chart of civilian casualties during the surge, broken down by Baghdad vs. non-Baghdad; and by shooting/execution vs. car bomb deaths. IBC, which relies on verified press reports in English and in Arabic, here lists civilian deaths per day, apparently on average, for each month in 2007.

From The Chicago Tribune:

[Rep. Jerry Weller (R-IL)], a southwest suburban congressman with a fondness for Latin America, has sunk a large share of his investment capital into a land development in Nicaragua. But he didn't declare the extent of his holdings on his required congressional disclosures, and he indicated dramatically different purchase prices for the land in American and Nicaraguan records.... House ethics rules require representatives to disclose all property they own except for their personal residences.

So we may not get to see the basis for General Petraeus' computations that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq. An anonymous senior military officer tells The Washington Times' Bill Gertz not to expect a paper trail when Petraeus testifies to Congress on Monday.

A senior military officer said there will be no written presentation to the president on security and stability in Iraq. "There is no report. It is an assessment provided by them by testimony," the officer said.

The only hard copy will be Gen. Petraeus' opening statement to Congress, scheduled for Monday, along with any charts he will use in explaining the results of the troop surge in Baghdad over the past several months.


Will the charts explain the methodology used to derive the information they contain?

(Via ThinkProgress)

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