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Defense attorneys for the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff last night filed 95 letters from friends and supporters in an effort to get the former GOP power-broker out of jail early. In the words of the Associated Press, the letters "describe him as a humbled, changed man whose family is suffering and nearly broke after his first 18 months in prison."

Apparently Abramoff has turned himself into something of a professor while in prison. His lawyers say that he has taught classes entitled "Parenting from a Distance," "Modern Marvels," "Cinema Studies," and "The Holocaust in Films," and is currently teaching a film theory class.

As we told you this morning, prosecutors have asked for leniency for Abramoff because he has already spent over 3000 hours helping them with their ongoing federal corruption probe, which implicates a number of other Washington players.

We've now looked through the lawsuit against KBR that we told you about this morning. The complaint (pdf) alleges that the company -- the biggest U.S. contractor in Iraq during the period at issue -- engaged in a human trafficking scheme whereby 12 Nepali men were brought to Iraq to work and were prevented from leaving. The men were then kidnapped by insurgents, and all but one were executed.

In sum: "Defendants' actions as set forth above constitute the torts of trafficking in persons, involuntary servitude, forced labor, and slavery."

What jumps out is that, though KBR's Jordanian sub-contractor, Daoud and Partners (which is named as a co-defendant) was more directly involved in the details of the alleged trafficking, this doesn't appear to be a case of KBR being held liable for acts committed by a sub-contractor that it may or may not have known about.

For instance, the suit alleges that after the kidnapping, the one survivor "was very scared for his safety and wanted to leave to return to Nepal. His employers (both Defendants Daoud and the KBR Defendants) told him that he could not leave until his work in Iraq was complete."


Employees and managers of the KBR Defendants in Iraq were told by the laborers there that they had been taken to Iraq against their will. For example, another Nepali laborer, Sarad Sapkota, was recruited to work outside of Nepal as a cook in Oman in 2003, but was instead taken to Iraq against his will and forced to work for KBR on a military base. He and the other TCNs [Third Country Nationals] working with him repeatedly told their KBR managers that they did not want to come to Iraq and were not informed that they would be sent to Iraq, but were repeatedly told by KBR that they had no choice and would be forced to work in Iraq until their contract was completed.

This is hardly the first time that KBR has been in hot water, of course. As we noted back in June, the company "was criticized in March for making troops sick by failing to provide clean water. And top military officials have given false statements to Congress to quell controversy over the company." In addition, at least two female former KBR employees in Iraq have alleged that they were raped or sexually assaulted by co-workers, and that KBR was less than aggressive in investigating their claims.

United States intelligence services are increasingly relying on private contractors to perform essential intelligence tasks. Contractors make up about a quarter of core national intelligence workers and are involved in some of the most sensitive areas of intelligence. The average salary for a contract intelligence worker is over $200,000, compared to $125,000 for a government employee. (Washington Post)

Two U.S. military personnel were allegedly paid almost $100,000 to arrange three deals to rebuild Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The officers, Christopher West and Patrick Boyd, were indicted yesterday for bribery. Three Afghani contractors were also charged. (AP)

After years of incarceration, it is still unclear whether Guantanamo detainees will be able to witness their own trials or see the evidence the government has against them. One of the judges trying to create rules for Guantanamo hearings is worried that the procedures and evidence will be hidden from both the public and the defendants. Trials for Guantanamo defendants may rely on classified evidence that will be kept secret. (AP)

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The Washington Post reports that KBR, one of the largest U.S. contractors in Iraq, is being sued, along with a subcontractor, for engaging in human trafficking in Iraq. According to a lawyer for the Washington firm bringing the suit:

13 Nepali men, between the ages of 18 and 27, were recruited in Nepal to work as kitchen staff in hotels and restaurants in Amman, Jordan. But once the men arrived in Jordan, their passports were seized and they were told they were being sent to a military facility in Iraq, Fryszman said.

As the men were driven in cars to Iraq, they were stopped by insurgents. Twelve were kidnapped and later executed, Fryszman said. The thirteenth man survived and worked in a warehouse in Iraq for 15 months before returning to Nepal.

The suit alleges that the scheme was set up by KBR (formerly known as Kellogg Brown and Root) and its Jordanian subcontractor, Daoud and Partners. This spring, Daoud was ordered by a Department of Labor judge to pay $1 million to the families of 11 of the victims.

KBR said in a statement that it "in no way condones or tolerates unethical or illegal behavior."

Given KBR's prominence role in working with the U.S. military in Iraq and elsewhere, this deserves keeping an eye on.

Could the White House be getting desperate in its dramatic legal battle with the House Judiciary Committee? It certainly looks that way, as they scramble to delay Harriet Miers' congressional testimony after the court's recent denial of their request for a stay.

Yesterday, HJC Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) set Miers testimony for September 11, but the administration isn't going down without a fight.

From the AP:

The Bush administration had already indicated it would appeal but Justice Department lawyers said Wednesday that they will ask the court to step in quickly and temporarily put Miers' appearance on hold while the appeal plays out. It's a risky move for an administration that has spent years trying to strengthen the power of the presidency.

Yesterday, TPM's David Kurtz caught up with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) at the Democratic National Convention and got his take on the new developments in the Miers case unfolding at the HJC.

Leahy made it clear that this battle wasn't just going to end in the event of an Obama presidency. "I remind them," he said, "I'll still be chairman next year."

We'll have to wait until next Thursday for a final decision, but in filings made yesterday, it appears that the Justice Department is seeking a pretty light sentence for the infamous former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

From the Washington Post:

Since his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has spent more than 3,000 hours helping more than 100 law enforcement agents in an ongoing federal corruption probe that has implicated "scores of other persons not yet charged," attorneys said in court filings today.

. . . If a federal judge in Washington accepts the recommendation from the Justice Department, Abramoff would serve no more than another three years and three months in prison, not accounting for credit for good behavior awarded by the Bureau of Prisons. Abramoff's attorneys are seeking even more leniency that could have him released from prison by 2010.

Yesterday, a District Court judge denied the White House's request for a stay on the Congressional testimony of Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in the US attorney case.

Emboldened by that ruling, House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers (D-MI) announced in a press release this afternoon that his office has sent a letter to the White House setting a deadline of September 4 to comply with the judge's order to produce documents relating to the case. The letter also says that the date for Miers to appear at a hearing has been postponed until September 11.

The quest to find out the extent of the White House's role in the scandal continues...

As Joe Biden gets set for his big moment in Denver tonight, there's renewed scrutiny on the activities of his lobbyist son.

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that Hunter Biden -- along with Joe Biden's brother, James -- is being accused in one lawsuit of defrauding a former business partner, and in a separate lawsuit of defrauding an investor in a hedge fund deal. The facts of the cases remain unclear, but the plaintiff in one of the suits, Anthony Lotito Jr., alleges that he entered into a deal with Hunter and James to create a hedge-fund group, Paradigm Companies LLC, before the Bidens crafted another deal to create a "secret company" designed to buy out Lotito's shares. The suit also claims that Hunter entered into the original deal as a way to get out of the lobbying business, thanks to concerns about the impact of his lobbying activities on his father's expected presidential run. The Bidens allege in response that Lotito defrauded them, according to the Post, by "misrepresenting his experience in the hedge fund industry and recommending that they hire a lawyer with felony convictions."

That same day, the New York Times had its own angle on Hunter's lobbying activities. It reported that, while Sen. Biden, a longtime ally of the credit-card industry, was working in support of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy, Hunter had a consulting agreement -- which may have been worth $100,000 a year -- with financial-services giant MBNA, one of the bill's biggest backers.

The Times adds this interesting detail:

Campaign officials acknowledged that the connection between the Bidens and MBNA, the enormous financial services company then based in their home state of Delaware, was one of the most sensitive issues they examined while vetting the senator for a spot on the ticket.

And now today, the Post uncovers a link between Hunter Biden and Obama himself, reporting that the Illinois senator "sought more than $3.4 million in congressional earmarks for clients of the lobbyist son of his Democratic running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, records show." The Obama campaign said that Hunter Biden never met directly with Obama, and noted: "It's hardly surprising that a Senator from Illinois would fight for investments in Mercy Hospital, Thorek Hospital and St. Xavier University right in Illinois, or that he'd be joined in that effort by a Republican colleague, Representative Judy Biggert."

Whether this stream of reports will create a lasting problem for the Democratic ticket -- particularly given Sen. Biden's own record of close ties to Washington lobbyists, particularly for the banking industry -- or whether they'll get lost in the ever-churning mill of campaign news, remains to be seen. But they certainly bear keeping an eye on.

Freshly released from prison, former Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney is ripping into the administration, leveling charges that they were behind his prosecution.

Ney, who has taken to the airwaves as a radio commentator, recently appeared on the Thom Hartmann show to talk about the Bush administration's role in his prosecution and his past life as a felon.

"I made the bullets, I gave them the bullets," Ney says of his prosecution for bribery, but goes on to suggest that his willingness to challenge the administration's head-in-the sand approach to Iran made him a target.

From the transcript:

[Thom]: You were prosecuted by the Bush Administration for what Ellen [Ellen Ratner of Talk Radio News] has characterized to me as, you know, one possibly serious crime, one largely irrelevant crime. But mostly something that probably, a number of things that probably many members of congress could be gone after, and she seems to be of the opinion that your prosecution was a political prosecution because you were pushing back on Iran. You want to, can you speak to that, please?

[Ney]: But at the end of the day, you know, I brought a lot of things on myself. . . And I did some things that were wrong. But I also believe that part of this was fueled in the sense of the Iran issue. It's been no secret that when I went to prison I gave permission for a secret meeting I'd had with Mr. Guldimann [Tim Guldimann, then Swiss Ambassador in Tehran] who came from Switzerland. He presented a document that was absolutely incredible, where Iran would have recognized Israel and a whole host of other things, would have let our inspectors on their ground; and I sent that to the White House.

I'll stand by that today; the White House denies it, but Colin Powell's former assistant admits that that came over to the State Department and the White House wanted no part of it. And I believe that every step of the way, and I think it came more from Cheney's people, but every step of the way that I attempted to deal with Iran, it got pretty harsh back. And so I think part of this, I made the bullets, I gave them the bullets, but I think some of the force was also involved with, you know, Iran and people that would rather see those countries not communicate, no matter who is head of Iran.

Later, Ney amps up his critique, saying that the administration has "taken bloodsport to a new level":

[Thom]: It so sounds like the Don Siegelman story and the Paul Minor story, and if you're not familiar with those two stories, I encourage you to do a little Googling. I think that we have political prisoners in the United States now.

[Ney]: Well, I know that the harshness of the administration, and again, I take culpability, I did some wrong things, but when you get in their path, I think they've taken bloodsport to a new level in this administration.

Full transcript after the jump.

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Details about Dick Cheney's interview under oath with Patrick Fitzgerald about the vice president's role in the outing of Valerie Plame may soon become public, thanks to a lawsuit filed by a non-profit watchdog group. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is suing the Department of Justice for failing to release records related to their investigation of the Plame leak. The House Judiciary Committee has sought access to these records for more than a year. (CREW)

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) appears likely to win the Republican nomination for re-election to Congress despite ongoing allegations of corruption, and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has won the Republican party's nomination for re-election to the Senate despite a criminal indictment. Both congressmen have gotten into hot water for failing to report gifts from the the VECO corporation. (New York Times)

The fate of Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick could be in the hands of Michigan's Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm. Granholm has scheduled a hearing to determine whether Kilpatrick should be removed from office. Kilpatrick currently faces 10 felony charges, including bribery and misconduct in office. The hearing will begin September 3. (AP)

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