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The Anchorage Daily News has what we've all been waiting for, new information on the imfamous "Corrupt Bastard Club" hats the FBI seized last year when they raided the offices of half a dozen Alaska politicians, including Ben Stevens'.

According to testimony from former Rep. Pete Kott's girlfriend, she was paid $900 to embroider "Veco" on 100 hats, with the "CBC" logo on the back of about a dozen.

The prosecution had a box of different color CBC hats in the courtroom. A red one was entered into evidence.

Alaska's Republican Gov. Sarah Palin wants Ben Stevens to give up his seat as the national committeeman for the Alaska Republican Party now that former Veco CEO Bill Allen testified to bribing Stevens while he was state Senate president.

Palin probably won't get her way since there is no mechanism to remove him, though, (ouch), Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich said:

"[Stevens] will serve through the March 20008 convention. We look forward to electing a new committee man at that time," Ruedrich said.

Yesterday, the director of national intelligence, Admiral Michael McConnell, casually informed the House Judiciary Committee that the FISA Court had gotten so restrictive that its rulings required the NSA to obtain warrants before spying on Iraqi insurgents that had kidnapped U.S. troops.

That sounded dubious to us. Would the FISA Court have really issued such a patently absurd ruling? And it turns out we're not the only ones. FISA expert Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies also finds McConnell's statement dubious.

"It's totally implausible, like the claim about the arrests in Germany. Doesn't NSA have collection capabilities in Iraq? If so, they are totally outside FISA," Martin says. "Even if they're taking the Iraqi insurgent calls off the wire in the U.S. talking to each other, they don't need a court order and no court is going to bar them. Or is it that the NSA is so incompetent that it doesn't know they are Iraqi insurgents talking to each other and they were just blindly searching all traffic, which the court said they weren't allowed to do?"

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Here's a copy of the request for an ethics investigation into Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) murky Coconut Road earmark that we mentioned earlier.

Last month I spoke with executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington Melanie Sloan who said there's virtually no chance that the famously inactive House ethics committee will pursue the issue. But as Paul just noted, maybe the sleeping giant has awakened. We here at TPMmuckraker like to think of the glass as half full.


The slumbering beast awakens?

The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation Wednesday of Rep. Bob Filner's run-in with a baggage worker at Dulles International Airport last month. The incident resulted in misdemeanor assault and battery charges against the congressman.

As we noted this morning in the Daily Muck, the new investigation was actually triggered by the new ethics rules recently passed into law that require a review of members charged with a crime. Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) is the unhappy inaugural case.

Will this mean that it's still more likely that a member of the House become a target of an FBI investigation rather than an ethics investigation? I'm afraid so. But at least now, those members are sure to face the fury of the ethics panel after they see criminal charges.

Once he was known as the "Flies On The Eyeballs" guy. Lately, he's been the vice president of controversial private security company Blackwater. Now, Cofer Black has a new position: top counterterrorism adviser to Massachusetts Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

The one-time chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center got his flamboyant nickname after delivering a famous post-9/11 briefing to President Bush about the CIA's plans to destroy al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. ("They'll have flies on their eyeballs" when CIA is done with them, Black is reported to have said.) But that wasn't Black's most famous utterance. In September 2002, in his first-ever public testimony before a joint Congressional inquiry into 9/11, Black -- by then the head of the State Department's counterterrorism shop -- acknowledged that in terms of the CIA's "operational flexibility," after 9/11, "the gloves come off." In retrospect, it's considered the first public reference to the agency's detention, rendition and interrogation policies.

Black left government in 2005 to join Blackwater, whose activities in Iraq have drawn both the ire of the Iraqi government and the opprobrium of House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). But that hasn't disqualified Black from advising Romney's campaign.

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The Democratic candidate running against Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has asked for an official investigation by the House ethics committee into Young's extra-Constitutional Coconut Road earmark.

The earmark was rewritten after Congress voted on the legislation, prompting legal experts and watchdogs to question the ethics and legality of the earmark and call for an investigation into how it happened, as the candidate, Diane Benson, noted in her announcement of the complaint.

She also told Alaska Public Radio Network that despite the many scandals Young faces, including a federal investigation into his Veco ties, she has decided to focus solely on the Coconut Road earmark controversy.

"I don't want to see this be ignored because I think the implications are too great," Benson said on APRN. "This is exactly how we end up where we are now with people getting indicted. We have a responsibility to say: we want you to tell us the truth."

Blackwater doesn't just operate in a legal black hole in Iraq. The private-security firm has grown expert in protecting itself from oversight and regulation in Washington as well.

Over at POGO, Nick Schwellenbach connects Blackwater to House oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman's investigation of Howard Krongard, the State Department inspector general whom Waxman alleges stifled numerous corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of those probes involved an alleged Blackwater scheme to funnel weapons into Iraq, and, Schwellenbach notes, it wouldn't be so difficult for Blackwater to know how to get around an IG probe. Its parent company, the Prince Group, recently hired the Pentagon's ex-IG, Joseph Schmitz.

Indeed, all throughout Blackwater are ways to get around government oversight: Cofer Black, the company's vice chairman, used to work at the CIA with A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, formerly CIA's executive director. And, yes, you read that last name correctly: Krongard of CIA is the brother of the current State Department IG. Think Schmitz or Black knew which numbers to call in the event of a State inquiry into the company?

That's not all.

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Yesterday news broke that the Office of Special Counsel is investigating US attorney Rachel Paulose for personnel practices in her office, which was roiled with a major staff shake-up this spring when four top administrators stepped down from their leadership positions in protest. Paulose declined to comment in the original story, but acknowledged the investigation when the Minneapolis Star Tribune followed up:

Paulose declined to discuss the specifics of the investigation. "Since the matter is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment at this time. I am confident the truth will be brought to light," she said.

"I am focused on doing the work of the people, which is what I was appointed to do."

Paulose is reportedly under investigation for such bad acts as retaliating against a lawyer who reported how she mishandled classified information and for using racial slurs against another employee.

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On Monday, we noted that Peter Keisler was unexpectedly slotted in as the man to replace Alberto Gonzales until the President's nominee, Michael Mukasey, was confirmed by the Senate. This morning, The Washington Post is the first paper to take much notice of the move, and reports that it caught pretty much everyone, including officials in the Justice Department, by surprise:

While Mukasey's nomination is pending, the Justice Department will be run by former civil division chief Peter D. Keisler, a conservative appointee who this week was a surprise replacement in that role for Solicitor General Paul D. Clement. Clement, who was publicly tagged last month as the temporary replacement for Gonzales, wound up officially taking the helm at 12:01 a.m. Monday and relinquishing it 24 hours later, officials said.

The switch was made on Sunday by the White House with no input from Justice Department officials, said two sources with knowledge of the matter. The change added another level of uncertainty to life at the Justice Department, where nearly every top senior official has resigned in the wake of controversies under Gonzales....

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