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Rudy’s adviser has a special touch with kids. Just months after Monsignor Alan Placa, a priest, “ was accused of sexually molesting two former students and an altar boy and told by the church to stop performing his priestly duties,” Giuliani asked him to join his consulting firm. The priest, who officiated Giuliani’s second wedding (#2 was Donna Hanover), is still employed by Giuliani Partners. Giuliani has stated, "I know the man; I know who he is, so I support him.” (ABC, “The Blotter”)

Another addition to our great list of disappearing information! The White House removed scientific references from Congressional testimony by the Centers for Disease Control that pointed out the potential health risks of climate change. A CDC official speaking on condition of anonymity asserted that the CDC report "was eviscerated." Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has called for the immediate release of the uncut CDC statement. (LA Times)

Monday’s mistrial in a terrorism case against an Islamic charity is reflective of its low conviction rate in terrorism cases since 9/11. Critics say the government has been using bad judgment by bringing weak cases and relying on stale evidence. But a former federal prosecutor said failures are due to the fact that juries “are demanding strict proof” these days in terrorism cases. (New York Times)

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Seriously this time: Ambassador Patrick Kennedy has unveiled his recommendations on the State Department's relationship with security contractors DynCorp, Triple Canopy and Blackwater. They represent a step back from Defense Secretary Bob Gates' reported suggestion that the military take control of State's security contractors and instead emphasize greater oversight of the existing system.

The Washington Post reports that Kennedy concluded that there's no alternative to contracting security for U.S. diplomats. The military doesn't consider that mission "feasible or desirable," preferring to actually fight the war. That leaves bolstering oversight as the department's option -- something that's been sorely lacking, as Special Inspector General for Iraq Stuart Bowen found. Bowen released a report yesterday finding that only seventeen State Department officials oversee the hundreds of security contractors working on a billion-plus dollar contract to train the Iraqi police -- and, earlier this year, that oversight office consisted of a whopping two people.

As spoofed yesterday, Kennedy's recommendations do include cultural-awareness training. But more substantively -- and significantly for the contracting industry -- Kennedy recommended that State begin a dialogue with the Justice Department and Congress to clarify the legal rules under which contractors operate overseas. That contradicts both Blackwater CEO Erik Prince, who has repeatedly that he has a clear "understanding" of his company's legal responsibilities, and George W. Bush, who has threatened to veto a House measure passed earlier this month that allows alleged contractor misdeeds overseas to be tried in U.S. courts. "We don't see the clarity here," Kennedy told reporters.

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The trouble with State Department security contractors, it turns out, is that they're just not very sensitive.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday ordered new measures to improve government oversight of private guards who protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, including extensive cultural awareness training for contractors.


The AP got an advance description of the recommendations made by Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, Rice's adviser on contractor oversight. But TPMmuckraker goes a step beyond. We've got an advance look at the cultural-awareness lesson plan for Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp.

Lesson One: Don't drunkenly murder bodyguards of Iraqi dignitaries.

Lesson Two: Should Lesson One fail, don't hire those who drunkenly murder bodyguards of Iraqi dignitaries.

Lesson Three: Don't shoot people as they flee in terror from your orgy of destruction.

Lesson Four: Don't force terrified civilians off the road with your reckless convoys.

Lesson Five: Don't fire your weapons at members of the U.S. military.

Lesson Six: Don't broadcast your orgy of destruction on YouTube while set to music meant to show what a bad ass you are.

It took a week after his committee was allowed to review documents related to the legality of the administration's warrantless surveillance program, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) publicly urged the White House to give the Senate and House judiciary committees the same access. "It's past time that the Administration provide all committees of jurisdiction with access to these documents so they too can make informed decisions about critical national security programs," he said in a press release this afternoon.

Rockefeller has come under attack from civil libertarians for drafting a surveillance bill granting retroactive legal immunity for telecom companies and yanking the FISA Court from its oversight role of surveillance of foreign-to-domestic communications.

The leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday reiterated its demand for the documents it subpoenaed three months ago. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) said "it is wrongheaded to ask Senators to consider immunity without their being informed about the legal justifications purportedly excusing the conduct being immunized." Indeed, Rockefeller's press release demonstrates their point. Its concluding sentences:

Finally, Rockefeller noted that the larger issue of whether the Administration acted illegally in authorizing its warrantless surveillance program is still an open question. The committee will continue its efforts to understand the legal underpinnings of the program.


So, in other words, Rockefeller just blessed a program that he can't yet certify is legal; and included in his blessing a blanket promise of immunity for companies that he can't say didn't break the law. "Wrongheaded" seems like a bit of an understatement.

A former lawyer for Don Siegelman (D-AL) told the House Judiciary Committee today that his client's case took a "180 degree" turn in 2004, after Justice Department officials in Washington told local prosecutors to take another look at the case -- from top to bottom.

According to former US attorney for Alabama Doug Jones, in the summer of 2004 prosecutors told him the case was going nowhere. By October 2004 the case against Siegelman had been dismissed. But one month later, in a surprising turn of events, Washington officials told local prosecutors to give it another shot, Jones testified today. By early 2005 it was as if the case was starting from scratch, Jones said, calling it "completely stunning" and a "complete reversal" from what the defense had been told just months before.

Jones is certain, he said, that Washington DOJ officials played an "integral" part in the renewed investigation. Jones represented Siegelman at the time, though he did not represent him at trial.

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Many Democratic members deferred their time to Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) during today's Judiciary Committee hearing on allegations of political prosecutions so that he could dig into the case of ex-Gov. Don Siegelman (D-AL).

Davis, who is convinced that the system worked against Siegelman for political reasons, took a stand for Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson this afternoon, responding to Rep. Randy Forbes' (R-VA) assertion that the Department of Justice should investigate her. Davis argued that there is no evidence directly disproving testimony Simpson gave House investigators.

In fact, Davis points out, Simpson offered evidence that undermines the three affidavits Forbes produced this morning. In her original affidavit and in testimony to House investigators, Simpson claimed that she was on a call in 2002 where a local Republican operative, Bill Canary, said Rove had been in touch with the Justice Department about a Siegelman investigation. The three sworn statements from men who Simpson says were also on that call, the son of Gov. Bob Riley (R-AL), Riley's 2002 campaign lawyer and an Alabama Republican, Terry Butts, all claim that the call never happened. But Davis pointed to the phone record (available here) Simspon gave House investigators showing she had made an 11-minute call to Riley's law offices on the day she claims.

Six months ago, Davis said towards the end of the hearing, he had faith in the justice system. But following the revelations of the U.S. attorney scandal and those from the Siegelman case, he said he's no longer so sure politics didn't come to play an important role in prosecutorial decisions under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"I cannot sit here today and say to to you that I have confidence that the system worked in a fair and just manner in this case," Davis said.

In response to Michael Mukasey's professed ignorance as to what waterboarding is, all eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have sent Mukasey a detailed primer on the centuries-old torture technique. It includes some surprising historical details: did you know, for instance, that during the occupation of Japan, the U.S. prosecuted Japanese soldiers who waterboarded U.S. POWs?

You can read the letter here. But we thought we should do our part to educate Mukasey as well. So here's a waterboarding reenactment, courtesy of Keith Olbermann:



The Senators write, "Please respond to the following question: Is the use of waterboarding, or inducing the misperception of drowning, as an interrogation technique illegal under U.S. law, including treaty obligations?" During the hearing, Mukasey would only reply: "If it amounts to torture, then it is not Constitutional."

Dick Thornburgh, the Republican former attorney general under George H.W. Bush, didn't mince words in his testimony before a House subcommittee today.

The case against his client Dr. Cyril Wecht, he said, is a raft of "nickel and dime transgressions" that include using the county coroner's office fax machine for personal business. It's far from the type of case normally constituting a federal corruption case, he argued, since there's "no evidence of a bribe or kickback" and no evidence that Wecht traded on a conflict of interest.

(Update: You can see video of Thornburgh's testimony here.)

So why was the case brought? Wecht is a high-profile Democrat, "an ideal target for a Republican U .S. Attorney trying to curry favor with a Department which demonstrated that if you play by its rules, you will advance," Thornburgh said, referring to the U.S. attorney firings scandal. Put that together with the fact that U.S. Attorney for Pittsburgh Mary Beth Buchanan has prosecuted "not one" Republican, while prosecuting Democrats in a "highly visible manner," and you have your conclusion.

Beyond the politicization of the Justice Department, Thornburgh said the root of the problem lay in vague criminal statutes that allowed prosecutors to pursue charges for things that should not rise to the level of a felony. There's an "opportunity for abuse" with those laws, he said, that Congress might consider amending through legislation. He pointed to the appellate court's decision in the controversial case of Wisconsin bureaucrat Georgia Thompson, where the judges made a similar suggestion.

The only Republican to make a concerted attempt to discredit Thornburgh was Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL), who called his testimony "the most pathetic example of... innuendo and hearsay" that he'd ever seen. He then shifted gears to say that it was "totally ridiculous" to think that the President would have called up Buchanan and ordered that Wecht be prosecuted because he's a Democrat. Thornburgh countered that he'd never said that and that Keller "should be embarrassed for misciting the record." He didn't have personal knowledge that the case against Wecht was pursued for political reasons, he said, but there was a "set of facts" that led him to that conclusion.

Why did Buchanan "go to such lengths?" he asked. "Measured against the backdrop of nationwide actions of a similar ilk,... I can only come to the conclusion that the prosecution was politically motivated."

Frontline does it again. Fresh after the documentary show's penetrating look at Dick Cheney's pet legal theories, it travels to Tehran to explore the slowly building crisis between the U.S. and Iran. In doing so, Frontline pulls off a real coup, presenting the first-ever televised interview with Mohammed Jafari, a Qods Force commander and deputy leader of Iran's national security council.

Jafari isn't a household name, but in U.S.-Iranian relations, he's a big deal. Earlier this year, the U.S. raided the Iranian consulate in Erbil in an attempt to capture him, but Jafari wasn't at the consulate during the raid. Frontline describes him as one of the architects of Iran's Iraq policy -- which, the U.S. alleges, includes providing weapons to anti-American insurgent and militia groups -- and had the raid succeeded, U.S.-Iranian relations could very well have reached a crisis point.

In the documentary, Jafari promises retaliation against any U.S. military strike on Iran:

You will not find a single instance in which a country has inflicted harm on us and we have not responded. So if the United States makes such a mistake, they should know that we will definitely respond. And we don't make idle threats.


He's joined in that sentiment by Hossein Shariatmadari, a mouthpiece for "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i:

As the Supreme Leader has said, if we're attacked we will threaten all American interests around the globe. The first step would be that all areas in Israel are in reach of our missiles, I mean there is not a single place in Israel outside the range of our missiles.




Showdown With Iran airs tonight on PBS.

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