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As we reported Monday, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies launched a national ad campaign lambasting House Democrats for not passing the Senate surveillance bill, which comes complete with retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

As of Friday, the group, which claims to be non-partisan, boasted a number of Democrats on their board of advisors. Those were: Donna Brazile, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Jim Marshall, and former Georgia governor Zell Miller. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), listed as a Democrat on the site, is one of five "distinguished advisors."

Since the group launched the ads, Brazile, Schumer, Engel and Marshall have all resigned from the group. Zell Miller, well, he spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Our call and email to Sen. Lieberman's spokesman were unreturned.

In her statement, Brazile said that no one from the group had consulted her about its activities "in years." And that the once "bi-partisan organization" had, "due to the influence of their funders... morphed into a radical right wing organization that is doing the dirty work for the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans."

TPM alum Spencer Ackerman, reporting on the resignations over at The Washington Independent this morning, cites Democratic sources as saying that Marshall was "appalled" by the ad.

Schumer also said that he hadn't been consulted about the group's activities and that he regretted the "partisan agenda that the organization has pursued." His full statement is below.

Brian Wise, the group's spokesman, said that he was "sorry that the senator feels that way," but that the ads are "not political ads, they're issue based ads." The ad, which you can see here, ran nationally, with a slightly different version airing in local markets targeting 15 House Dems. Those ads ended by encouraging viewers to contact their representative and urge them to convince the House leadership to bring the Senate bill to a vote -- because "the law that lets intelligence agencies intercept Al Qaeda communications" has expired, "crippling" surveillance. They will run throughout the week, Wise said.

Wise has refused to reveal the donors behind the ad, which was run by a 501(c)(4) affiliate group simply called Defense of Democracies. Wise told me yesterday that group was formed last week. When I asked if telecommunication companies had put up the money (Democratic officials estimate the buy to be in the millions), he laughed, then conceded that he didn't know who had. "To my knowledge, we've never been associated with the telecom industry." He added "we have no interest in any outcome other than national security."

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Wikileaks just got some legal backup.

The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a motion last night to intervene in the case. The two groups are seeking to roll back a federal California judge's sweeping order earlier this month that blocked access to The order came as a result of a Swiss bank's complaint that the site was distributing confidential documents that allegedly show shell accounts used to hide assets.

A lawyer for the ACLU and EFF said that shutting down the site was a case of "burning down the house to roast the pig." It's wrong, the groups argue, that the public has lost access to all of the documents that wikileaks has to offer (well, at least through -- a number of mirror sites have sprung up to counter the order).

The groups are seeking to intervene in the case on behalf of themselves, the Project on Government Oversight, a D.C. watchdog, and Jordan McCorkle, a student at the University of Texas who uses wikileaks on a regular basis.

Update: Public Citizen and the California First Amendment Coalition have also sought to intervene in the case.

Update: A group of journalism organizations has also sought to file an amicus brief on Wikileaks' behalf. Those organizations are: the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Associated Press, the Citizen Media Law Project, E.W. Scripps, Gannett, Hearst, The Los Angeles Times, the National Newspaper Association, the Newspaper Association of America, the Radio-Television News Directors Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Marine Corps has ordered Franz Gayl, a retired Marine officer and civilian science adviser, to halt work on his scathing report about "gross mismanagement" in the Marine Corps' delay in producing and delivering Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to soldiers in Iraq. It's not that the Corp officials can't handle the truth, rather Gayl's inquiry has moved "beyond its initial purpose." (USA Today)

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald issued a grand jury subpoena to the White House during the Libby-Plame investigation in order to obtain insight into the internal dynamics of the Bush-Cheney White House. It now appears that the prosecutor did not get all of the e-mail requested. Testimony from a former White House computer expert, Steven McDevitt, revealed yesterday that all e-mail from Cheney's office was missing for the week of Sept. 30, 2003, to Oct. 6, 2003 - the "opening days of the Justice Department's probe into whether anyone at the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame." (AP)

For the first time since becoming a captive of the U.S. in secret detention and then at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Zubaydah has met with two attorneys who will now represent him. The lawyers, Joseph Margulies and Brent Mickum, will challenge their new client's status as an "enemy combatant" through a federal appeals process. (Miami Herald)

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I don't know how the administration can be expected to successfully fear-monger with articles like this being written. It's not helpful.

Ever since the Protect America Act lapsed a little more than a week ago, the administration has been emphasizing the grave danger the country is in. Sure, experts and Democrats say that surveillance of terrorist groups authorized under the lapsed law should continue unabated. But don't listen to them.

The administration delivered what should have been the coup de grâce on Friday, when the director of national intelligence informed Congress that the feared consequence of the law's lapse was already upon us. "We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress' failure to act," they wrote, underlining the sentence to add that needed emphasis. Telecoms weren't cooperating with wiretap requests out of that "uncertainty." Unfortunately, the troublesome telecom apparently quickly became certain, because those administration officials had to announce that the dark hour was over only "hours later."

The New York Times sheds some much needed light on the situation this morning. The most crucial revelation is this:

Theoretically, intelligence officials would have to revert to older — and, they say, more cumbersome — legal standards if they were now to stumble onto a new terrorist group that was not covered by a previous wiretapping order. But that has not happened since the surveillance law expired, administration officials said.

This is crucial because the administration's direst warnings have had to do with being unable to wiretap new targets. But apparently the powers granted by the Protect America Act were so sweeping that after a week, the NSA hasn't run into that problem yet.

The apparent "uncertainty" which the administration hyped last week for one telecom had hinged on a legal issue: "whether the government could expand existing wiretapping orders to include new phone numbers or e-mail addresses in surveillance of the same targets covered by the original orders," the Times reports. That issue has been resolved. And an anonymous "lawyer in the telecommunications industry" tells the Times that he's "seen little practical effect on the industry’s surveillance operations since the law expired."

BUT that doesn't mean Democrats and Americans should not be afraid: administration officials "emphasized that the uncertainty of the legal landscape threatened to disrupt future operations."

You can be sure that you'll be hearing about every bump on the road until the administration gets its precious retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

From the AP:

A computer expert who worked at the White House provided the first inside look at its e-mail system Tuesday, calling it a "primitive" setup that created a "high" risk that data would be lost.

Steven McDevitt's written statements placed on the public record at a congressional hearing asserted that a study by White House technical staff in October 2005 turned up an estimated 1,000 days on which e-mail was missing....

McDevitt's statements detailed shortcomings that he said have plagued the White House e-mail system for six years. He declared that:

_The White House had no complete inventory of e-mail files.

_There was no automatic system to ensure that e-mails were archived and preserved.

_Until mid-2005 the e-mail system had serious security flaws, in which "everyone" on the White House computer network had access to e-mail. McDevitt wrote that the "potential impact" of the security flaw was that there was no way to verify that retained data had not been modified.

You can see McDevitt's full answers here (pdf).

Remember that as The Washington Post outlined last month, the Bush Administration managed to dismantle the Clinton Administration's email archive system without replacing it with anything at all.

Yesterday we brought you Karl Rove's expansive denial of Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson's testimony to Congress and comments to 60 Minutes.

Simpson responded last night on MSNBC's Dan Abrams show: "Since Karl Rove has said that and he feels so good saying that, what I want him to do is go and swear before the United States Congress and swear what he's saying is true."

Simpson also responded to accusations from the Alabama Republican Party that Simpson had never worked for the party and no one had ever heard of her. She said that phone records would show conversations with party officials in Alabama and Washington, D.C. in 2002 and 2006.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Don Siegelman case in October, Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) produced phone records showing that Simpson had spoken with William Canary, a Republican operative, on the day in 2002 that she said Canary had told her on a conference call that his wife and another U.S. attorney would "take care" of Siegelman.

You've heard from President Bush over and over and over and over again about the imminent danger the country is in. And you've heard from the director of national intelligence and attorney general about how the telecoms are quaking over the uncertainty created by not securing retroactive immunity.

Yesterday, four former top national security officials put forward a different line in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. The officials -- Richard Clarke (former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council), Rand Beers (former Senior Director for Combating Terrorism at the National Security Council), Lt. Gen. Don Kerrick (former Deputy National Security Advisor), and Suzanne Spaulding (former assistant general counsel at the CIA) -- all worked with McConnell in the past. McConnell led the National Security Agency from 1992 through 1996. The letter was distributed today by the National Security Network.

McConnell and the administration, they wrote, was distorting the truth about surveillance capabilities after the lapse of the Protect America Act. The country is not "at greater risk," they write. "The intelligence community currently has the tools it needs to acquire surveillance of new targets and methods of communication."

And they're also not buying the administration line on how crucial it is that the telecoms be granted retroactive immunity for cooperating with the administration's warrantless wiretapping program:

Telecommunications companies will continue to cooperate with lawful government requests, particularly since FISA orders legally compel cooperation with the government. Again, it is unclear to us that the immunity debate will affect our surveillance capabilities....

The Administration has made it clear it believes this entire debate hinges on liability protection. As previously stated, it is unclear that liability protection would significantly improve our surveillance capabilities. It is wrong to make this one issue an immovable impediment to Congress passing strong legislation to protect the American people.

You can read the entire letter below.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: no one will ever accuse Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson of a lack of chutzpah.

Johnson, remember, blocked California's effort -- and 15 other states by extension -- to combat greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. He made the decision despite an apparent unanimity of opinion on his staff that he had no real justification for doing so. The decision was certainly to the White House's and automotive industry's satisfaction.

The Senate environmental committee, along with the House oversight committee, has been investigating the decision. Johnson made a blandly combative appearance (heavy on the "gobbledygook") before the Senate panel last month. And today, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released more evidence that Johnson overruled his staff.

A set of talking points prepared for a senior official in the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality for a meeting with Johnson was most explicit:

From what I have read and the people I have talked to, it is obvious to me that there is no legal or technical justification for denying this....

You [Johnson] have to find a way to get this done. If you cannot, you will face a pretty big personal decision about whether you are able to stay in the job under those circumstances. This is a choice only you can make, but I ask you to think about the history and the future of the agency in making it. If you are asked to deny this waiver, I fear the credibility of the agency that we both love will be irreparably damaged.

Update: The New York Times reports that the talking points were "drafted by Christopher Grundler, deputy director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the agency, for his boss, Margo T. Oge." They were used by William K. Reilly, the administrator from 1989 to 1993, in a conversation with Johnson.

Monica Goodling is set to cross the line -- into matrimony.

The former Justice Department White House liaison of U.S. attorneys firing fame is engaged to blogger Mike Krempasky, one of the founders of Redstate. (Presumably he passed Goodling's questionnaire with flying colors.)

The legal blog Above The Law, which first reported the engagement, has some nice pictures. Krempasky confirmed the news in an email.

One wonders: will Alberto Gonzales and former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty be invited to the wedding? Probably not.

The House Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement with John Ashcroft securing his testimony at a federal hearing concerning the $27 million to $52 million no-bid contract he received from his former subordinate, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. The committee was preparing to subpoena Ashcroft if he refused to testify voluntarily. Christie, however, will not appear at the hearing because the Justice Department has decided to send a U.S. Attorney from Georgia instead. (AP)

The Marine Corps, following the lead of senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Kit Bond (R-MO), has called for the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate delays in the deployment of blast-resistant vehicles in Iraq and whether the delays led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths and injuries. (MSNBC, AP)

Former military prosecutor Col. Morris Davis claims that the plea deal that sent Australian David Hicks - so far the sole detainee at Guantanamo Bay to have been convicted of a crime under the U.S. military tribunal system - to prison was rushed for political reasons. According to Davis "there appeared to be some impetus to try to help" former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who was then facing a difficult re-election campaign. The Pentagon denies the allegations. (Herald Sun)

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