TPM News

Not only is Guantanamo Bay going to continue on as the U.S.'s offshore indefinite-detention facility in the war on terrorism, but it's expanding -- at least by one.

As Paul flagged in the Must Read, President Bush's war cabinet was scheduled to debate shuttering Guantanamo Bay this morning at the White House, but once word of the meeting leaked to the Associated Press, administration hardliners scratched Guantanamo from the agenda. And as if to underscore the surprising resilience of the island prison, this morning, the Defense Department announced that Haroon al-Afghani, an Afghan who has "admitted to serving as a courier for al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL)," will be Guantanamo's newest addition:

There is significant information available that Haroon al-Afghani is a senior commander of Hezb-e-Islami/Gulbuddin (HIG), a declared hostile terrorist group associated with AQ in Afghanistan and commanded multiple HIG terrorist cells that conducted improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Nangarhar Province. He is assessed to have had regular contact with senior AQ and HIG leadership.


Since 2005, the number of detainees sent to Guantanamo Bay has slowed to a trickle. The largest recent addition came in September, when 14 "high-value" detainees transfered from CIA custody to the island facility. These days, detainees are more likely to be sent from Guantanamo to prisons in their home countries. As a result, the announcement of al-Afghani's arrival makes for some interesting timing.

The CIA plans to declassify hundreds of documents that detail a quarter century of the agency’s worst illegal abuses, including assassination attempts, domestic spying and wiretapping of journalists. (Washington Post)

Former Attorney General John Aschroft testified behind close doors yesterday in front of the House Intelligence Committee. According to the Committee chairman, Ashcroft corroborated previous sentiments from James Comey that a “robust and enormous debate” had occurred around the potential illegality of a warrantless wiretapping program. (Associated Press)

The House voted overwhelming to revive the Iraq Study Group and to seek new recommendations. Washington insiders suspect that former Mayor Giuliani will again be unable to join the ISG, as he will be picking up his laundry that day. (Washington Post)

Read More →

Sorry, false alarm.

A major meeting was to take place today amongst the president's national security and legal advisers, the AP reported late yesterday; and the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention facility was on the table. And "for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday."

That story broke around 6 PM last night. By 8 PM, the story had changed: there was no meeting, the White House said, and "no decisions on the future of Guantanamo Bay are imminent."

What happened? The Washington Post reports this morning that there really was supposed to be such a meeting. But "two administration officials" say that once word broke about the subject, and the apparent "consensus" that had been developing towards closing the facility, Gitmo was pulled off the table.

And the Post reports that the administration doesn't seem to be anywhere close to a resolution: Justice Department officials still don't want detainees to have access to habeaus corpus rights, and Homeland Security officials still oppose it "because it would mean bringing some of the people on the nation's terror watch list... inside U.S. borders."

And the vice president "has vehemently opposed bringing the detainees into this country."

In other words, there's the same split right down the administration that there's been since Robert Gates became Secretary of Defense. And that phantom "consensus" reported on last night would seem to be wishful thinking on behalf of those on Gates' side of the debate. Nobody told Dick Cheney that there was a consensus developing, apparently. Actually, a source tells the Post, it's more of a "tide":

"Of course people are talking about closing Guantanamo, of course," a senior administration official said. "[Defense Secretary Robert M.] Gates has said he wanted to close it down. [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice has spoken out on the issue. So far, it's a tide but not a wave. They don't want to leave this behind. They want to resolve this."


Note: Comments should be back up and working again after our technical problems yesterday, but there may still be delays in comments, once posted, appearing on the site.

Anchorage real estate developer Bob Penney, who testified before a grand jury about the bribery scandal in Alaska, is good to his friend Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

So good that he brought Stevens in on a real estate deal that fetched the senior senator a 566% return on a $15,000 investment in just five years. The investment, reported by The Anchorage Daily News in 2004, sheds some light on the financial ties between the two (via Nexis):

Penney said he and his business partners invited Stevens to join them in "appreciation for all he's done for Alaska and the country. We respect him very, very much."


The group of investors purchased a 96-acre plot 30 miles outside of Salt Lake City, Utah in a growing area with a plan to sell off individual pieces over the course of ten years. Stevens' $15,000 ballooned to at least $100,000 and possibly as much as $250,000.

The real estate deal is not the only financial endeavor between the two. Penney is also part of a group of investors called Alaska's Great Eagle (a nod to Stevens' days as a pilot in WWII) who bought a race horse with the senator and former chief executive of Veco, Bill Allen.

Read More →

According to a story just out from the AP, tomorrow morning may be the beginning of the end for the Guantanamo Bay detention facility:

The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The advisers will consider a new proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.

Consider the trigger pulled. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee broke an internal deadlock over President Bush's warrantless surveillance program, voting to subpoena Justice Department documents related to the program's origin. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has consistently denied requests for the documents over the past two years.

The warrantless surveillance program returned to the center of political controversy last month, when former Deputy Attorney General James Comey dramatically testified that in 2004, as acting attorney general, he had refused to sign off on the then-secret program's legality. As a result, Comey testified, then-White House Counsel Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card pressed an infirm John Ashcroft to override Comey. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Arlen Specter (R-PA) again requested documentation from Gonzales clarifying the legal arguments justifying the program, which allows the National Security Agency to intercept international communications believed to be related to terrorism without the approval of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge.

Read More →

Last year, Halliburton lost billions of dollars of revenue with the U.S. Army discontinued a worldwide supply contract with the oil-and-defense-services company. Yet Halliburton continues to report massive profits. What gives? A new reported column by Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil proposes an answer: Halliburton may be cooking its books.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Weil got ahold of court papers filed by Halliburton's former director of technical accounting research and training, Anthony Menendez, who alleges that Halliburton reported "billions" of revenue from sales before the sales ever happened. For good measure, according to Menendez's court filings with an administrative-law judge for the Department of Labor in Louisiana, Halliburton retaliated against him after he went to the Security and Exchange Commission with his concerns last year.

Menendez described Halliburton's "bill and sale" practices like this:

"For example, the company recognizes revenue when the goods are parked in company warehouses, rather than delivered to the customer. Typically, these goods are not even assembled and ready for the customer. Furthermore, it is unknown as to when the goods will be ultimately assembled, tested, delivered to the customer and, finally, used by the company to perform the required oilfield services for the customer.''

If true, that would violate generally accepted accounting principles. For companies to recognize revenue before delivery, ``the risks of ownership must have passed to the buyer,'' the SEC's staff wrote in a 2003 accounting bulletin. There also ``must be a fixed schedule for delivery of the goods,'' and the product ``must be complete and ready for shipment,'' among other things.


Charles Mulford, a Georgia Institute of Technology accounting professor, reviewed Menendez's complaint for Weil. "I'm not using the 'fraud' word yet," he tells TPMmuckraker, but Menendez's allegations about Halliburton's bill-and-sale practices are "not in accordance with generally accepted accounting procedures."

You can read Menendez's complaint in three parts (I, II, III).

The D.C. Court has once again blocked the right of habeas corpus to Guantanamo detainees. (Think Progress)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has ordered that posts in Baghdad be the top priority for hiring and appointment within the Department. How many of those new appointments will speak Arabic, we’re not sure. (Associated Press)

A court is preparing to hear arguments on a case that will decide whether the federal government can block states from investigating aspects of its terror fighting agenda. The Justice Department is hoping to prevent states from asking private companies if they illegally provided customer information to the NSA. (LA Times)

The CIA likely took tips from two psychologists –James Mitchell and Bruce Jensen– in designing its secretive, “enhanced” interrogation techniques. The Senate Armed Services Committee is interested in what role the two CIA contractors played. (Salon)

Read More →

For weeks, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have dialed down expectations that their progress report on Iraq, scheduled to be delivered to Congress in September, will represent a decisive moment for the war. Today, in an interview with the Times of London, Petraeus went much further:

“That is a deadline for a report not a deadline for a change in policy, at least not that I am aware of. Ambassador Crocker and I intend to go back and provide a snapshot at that time, however focused the photograph is at that time and begin to describe what has been achieved and what has not been achieved and also to provide some sense of implications of courses of action. Neither of us is under any illusion.”

Read More →

If Monica Goodling "crossed the line," as she famously admitted during congressional testimony last month, Bradley Schlozman appears to have flown over it.

The Washington Post focuses on Schlozman's handling of the appellate section when he was a senior political appointee at the Civil Rights Division, and finds that even being a Republican wasn't enough to assure Schlozman of a lawyer's abilities -- you had to be his kind of Republican:

Schlozman raised the question of partisan politics bluntly in the fall of 2004, they said, when asking appellate supervisors about the "loyalty" of division lawyer Angela Miller, who had once clerked for David. B. Sentelle, a conservative federal appeals judge. He told Miller's bosses that he learned that she voted for McCain in the 2004 Republican primary and asked, "Can we still trust her?"

He also warned section chief Diana Flynn that he would be keeping an eye on the legal work of another career lawyer who "didn't even vote for Bush," according to colleagues who said they heard Flynn describe the exchange. Miller told several of the colleagues that she considered Schlozman's remarks a form of intimidation, and started looking for another job, the lawyers said.

Schlozman and several deputies also took an unusual interest in the assignment of office responsibility for appellate cases and, according to the lawyers and one of the supervisors, repeatedly ordered Flynn to take cases away from career lawyers with expertise and hand them to recent hires whose résumés listed membership in conservative groups, including the Federalist Society.


The Post also confirms something first reported by TPMmuckraker last week, that Schlozman had told a new hire in the appellate section that he was clearing out career lawyers in order to replace them with "good Americans."

TPMLivewire