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Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman caught in the Dick Cheney information-security scandal, relies on the fact that she's not a lawyer to deflect questions on Cheney's claims to be outside both the executive and the legislative branches of government. What's David Addington's excuse?

Addington -- who served as Cheney's chief lawyer before becoming his chief of staff after Scooter Libby was indicted -- wrote a letter (pdf) to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday defending Cheney's asserted exemption from review by the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office. He's got two options: either argue that the Office of the Vice President is outside the scope of the executive order governing review of how executive branch agencies are supposed to handle classified material, or return to the claim that the veep is a unique branch of government and is exempt by default. Addington, somewhat surprisingly, chooses Option One.

The executive order on classified national security information -- Executive Order 12958 as amended in 2003 -- makes it clear that the Vice President is treated like the President and distinguishes the two of them from "agencies." The executive order gives the ISOO, under the supervision of the Archivist of the United States, responsibility to oversee certain activities of "agencies," but not of the Vice President or the President.


As TPMmuckraker highlighted yesterday, that amended order, known as Executive Order 13292, doesn't just deal with "agencies," it also deals with Executive Branch "entities." Former Justice Department lawyer Marty Lederman explains that because both the President's office and the OVP "are 'entities' within the Executive branch, they are 'agencies' covered by the E.O. (see section 6.1(b)) under a plain reading of the E.O."

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While former state Senate President Ben Stevens (R-AK) headed a seafood grant board that his father, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) funded with millions in federal dollars, the younger Stevens took in thousands of dollars in consulting fees from the very companies that won the allocations. At least some of those fees, one retired Alaska fisherman has said under oath, were veiled bribes.

The fisherman, Victor Smith, spoke with the FBI in Seattle last year, just before a grand jury in Alaska issued at least three fisheries subpoenas. Smith said the agents wanted information on how the Stevenses were connected to the fishery scandal that he and others have complained and written about for years. "They were mainly interested in payments to Ben Stevens and anything I had related to Ted Stevens," Smith told me.

In a signed affidavit (available here), Smith recounts a meeting between two affiliated fishery associations where the head of one group fielded a question from a member. The member wanted to know how Ben Stevens would be paid $500,000 now that his father had gotten $53 million for a project that would benefit the industry. According to Smith's affidavit:

* The reply from Zuanich was “I’m confident that, with a little convoluted accounting, we can keep the payments to Ben Stevens off of PSVOA’s books.”

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Prosecutors had asked for only five months imprisonment, coupled with five months house arrest for Steven Griles, the former #2 at the Interior Department who's pled guilty to lying to Senate investigators about his relationship with Jack Abramoff.

A federal judge, apparently unconvinced that Griles had learned anything from the whole affair, today sentenced him to twice that. From the AP:

The Interior Department's former No. 2 official was sentenced to 10 months in prison Tuesday for lying to senators in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, the highest administration official sentenced in the probe....

"Even now you continue to minimize and try to excuse your conduct," [Judge Ellen] Huvelle told Griles.


Griles had asked for three months home confinement and community service in the form of pro bono lobbying.

We knew from the Valerie Plame leak that the White House isn't exactly diligent with classified information. And we learned from Dick Cheney's claim that he's a fourth branch of government that he didn't really care who knew. But check out what Rep. Henry Waxman found.

In a letter today to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Waxman disclosed numerous instances of sloppiness with classified material by both the president and the vice president's retinues, as well as what White House security officers told Waxman is a "systematic breakdown" in responding to security breaches. Indeed, according to Waxman, over half of the staff of the White House Security Office -- which is charged with protecting secrecy guidelines alongside the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office -- have quit over the last year.

To give the most baroque examples, Waxman's investigation found White House officials leaving classified material "unattended in a hotel room" as well as plopped on their desks at work. Typically, the White House Security Office did nothing in response.

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We noted last week that a Washington, DC grand jury -- rather than one in Anchorage --is investigating Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) shifty involvement with oil services company Veco Corp. Today the Anchorage Daily News offers more fodder for why federal investigators would want to set up shop so far from home.

The story is about the headache prosecutors are nursing in selecting a jury for the trial of former state Rep. Tom Andseron (R-AK). Anderson is charged with taking $24,000 in bribes from a company hoping to build a number of private prisons in Alaska. Though the case is not directly tied to the Veco scandal, Anderson was a Veco consultant while in office.

Prosecutors are hitting two problems with potential jurors that cut in opposite directions: their apparent low regard for local politicians and the inevitable ties within a small community. Here's what two rejected jury candidates had to say about Anderson:

"I've already made up my mind," Donald Burns of Soldotna told a U.S. District Court judge on Monday. Burns, wearing a T-shirt and a baseball cap, said he listens to talk radio, watches TV news and reads two newspapers. "I hope they hang him," he said.

...

When longtime Anchorage resident Hannah Davis heard about the charges against Anderson, her reaction was, "Oh no, not another one," she told the judge. Too often, people in power, from Anchorage to Washington, D.C., use their positions for personal gain, she said.


As for community ties, one potential juror said she had gone on a date with Anderson and said she found the accusations "kind of unbelievable."

How a potential jury would receive Stevens if he were ever on trial is hard to say. Stevens has been in office since 1968 and is an Alaska icon, bringing his state millions in federal dollars. His re-election campaign has already raked in $1 million and no viable competitor has stepped up to the plate. But some in the state have called him less popular and more vulnerable than in past elections. However a jury might cut for Stevens, it's clear that a prosecutor won't find 12 Alaskans who've never heard of him.

Former Alabama governor, Don Siegelman (D), goes to court today for the start of his sentencing hearing which is expected to drag on for days. The former lawmaker faces up to 30 years in prison, while his his co-defendant, health care executive Richard Scrushy, could get 25 years -- both are ostensibly life sentences. Siegelman was convicted of appointing Scrushy to a public board in exchange for a donation to a lottery campaign.

Siegelman maintains his innocence and says the prosecution stemmed from a politically-motivated vendetta by Republicans. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, attested to this possibility in a sworn affidavit implicating Karl Rove in pushing the Justice Department to bring a case against Siegelman. (Simpson's affidavit is available here.)

Siegelman and others have called the prosecution's insistence on a long prison sentence further evidence of ulterior motives. As a contrast, Siegelman points to the last time an Alabama governor -- Guy Hunt (R) -- was convicted on political corruption charges, in 1993. A key prosecutor in that case, Steve Feaga, did not push for jail time. Now, that same prosecutor has fought for the 30-year term for Siegelman. From an editorial in the Birmingham News :

"The government doesn't contend I ever put a penny in my pocket, and they're asking for a life sentence," Siegelman said. "For the Republican governor who actually stole $200,000, Mr. Feaga did not ask for a day in prison, not a day."


The Los Angeles Times pointed out today that a 30 year sentence is longer than the average term served in Alabama for murder.

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Well, that clears that up. After a long are-they-or-aren't-they period, BAE, the British defense giant accused of paying $2 billion in kickbacks to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia over 20 years, admitted today that the Justice Department is investigating the company.

For years, Tim Griffin, the former aide to Karl Rove who’s been at the center of the U.S. attorney controversy, has been dogged by allegations that he was a part of a 2004 scheme to block African-Americans in Florida from voting.

As Greg Palast first reported for the BBC, an August, 2004 email sent to a number of Republican National Committee operatives contained a spreadsheet of the names and addresses of more than 1,800 voters in Duval County, Florida, a mostly white county that includes the city of Jacksonville. Palast reported that the addresses were located in mostly black neighborhoods, and his story, followed by others posted this year on his website and the Brad Blog, alleged that the list was compiled in order to challenge African-American voters at the polls. We sought to test that conclusion through our own analysis of the data.

The result? Our comparative analysis of the spreadsheet with Duval County voter rolls shows that most names were of African-Americans. (For more on the analysis, see below.) Such a finding, voting rights experts told me, strengthened allegations that Griffin, working for the Republican National Committee, was involved in an effort to target African-American voters. “It is difficult to explain other than an effort to target Democrats and by extension, minority voters,” Toby Moore, a former political geographer with the Justice Department, said.

Michael McDonald, an Associate Professor at George Mason University and an expert on elections statistics, said that the chance that the list is randomly so different from the population is less than 1 in 10,000. It is illegal to target voters based on their race under the Voting Rights Act. Griffin resigned earlier this month as the U.S. attorney for Little Rock after a six-month stint.

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Dana Perino, the occasionally flustered White House spokeswoman, has at least been consistent in her line that the executive order governing classification procedures that's gotten Dick Cheney into trouble lately also doesn't apply to President Bush. Today The Los Angeles Times' Josh Meyer points out why Perino's been saying that: the president's office itself rebuffed the National Archives' Information Security Oversight Office. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) found that in 2005, ISOO investigators came to the West Wing to inspect senior Bush aides' handling of classified information, only to be turned away by White House security officers. At the risk of a cheap shot, Saddam Hussein gave about as much access to UNMOVIC weapons inspectors in 2002 than Bush aides gave to the ISOO.

Now, here's the rub. If President Bush and Vice President Cheney clearly fall outside the scope of the executive order, as Perino said yesterday, why does ISOO, the agency directed under the order to ensure complaince, insist on inspecting them? The order, known as Executive Order 13292, gives the ISOO the authority "to conduct on-site reviews of each agency's program established under this order." Neither the president nor the vice president run any agency. But here's how EO 13292 defines "agency":

"Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; any "Military department" as defined in 5 U.S.C. 102; and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.


That's President Bush's language: he amended the executive order on March 25, 2003. (Basically, he gave the vice president power to automatically declassify information; it became an issue in the Valerie Plame leak case.) He could have easily cleared up any confusion about ISOO's ability to investigate his own office with a few uses of the word "exempt," but he didn't -- and now he's insisting that the order contains an implicit exemption.

It's an improvisatory kind of legal reasoning, it seems -- and it's no wonder Perino (who's apologizing all the time these days for her lack of a "legal mind") is having trouble keeping up.

David Lopez, former chief of staff to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), has given several hundreds of documents to federal investigators looking into his one-time employer. (Associated Press)

What do you do when Cheney claims not to be part of the executive? Democrats are toying with the idea of blocking the budget of the Vice President, since Cheney’s budget is currently lodged in the executive-branch spending bill. (The Hill)

The House Ethics Committee sent a stern note reminding lawmakers of their responsibility to give the committee 30-day notice to approve any private travel requests. The new rule, which took effect earlier this year, seems to have been ignored by many thus far. (Roll Call)

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