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In news that should surprise no one familiar with the Justice Department politicization under Monica Goodling and Jan Williams, a study conducted by the New York Times found that immigration judges installed during this period of illegal hiring were more likely than their peers to reject immigrants' bids for asylum.

According to the Times, of the 31 judges appointed during Goodling's tenure, only 16 had extensive enough records to support statistical analysis. Of those, nine rejected immigrant asylum seekers at a rate higher than other local judges, three were more likely to grant asylum, and four were in keeping with averages.

Collectively, the group was 6.6 percentage points greater in denying asylum than their combined local averages.

From the Times:

In Houston, for example, Judge Chris Brisack denied asylum in 90.7 percent of his cases, while other judges in that city averaged a 79.1 percent denial rate. Judge Brisack, a former Republican county chairman who also works in the oil business, did not return a call.

Garry Malphrus, the judge later elevated to the Board of Immigration Appeals, denied asylum 66.9 percent of the time, compared with an average denial rate of 58.3 percent among other judges at his court in Arlington, Va. Judge Malphrus, a former associate director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, did not return a call.

The highest gap belonged to Judge Earle Wilson. He worked first in Miami, where he denied 88.1 percent of asylum requests -- 9.8 percentage points higher than the local average. He then moved to Orlando, where his denial rate was 80.3 percent -- 29.2 percentage points higher than peers.

It wasn't but two weeks ago that Attorney Gen. Mukasey made the bold statement in a speech to the American Bar Association, that the Justice Department would not systematically remove all those hired during the DOJ's period of politicization.

"Two wrongs do not make a right," said Mukasey of the idea of dismissing those hired through the flawed process. "[T]he people hired in an improper way did not, themselves, do anything wrong. It therefore would be unfair - and quite possibly illegal given their civil service protections - to fire them or to reassign them without individual cause."

But even more interesting in the light of the Times report, is Mukasey's specific defense of IJs hired under Goodling's watch and his highlighting of one of the judges he had recently promoted:

One of the Immigration Judges identified by the joint report as having been hired through the flawed process was recently tapped - by the revised hiring process that gives no consideration to politics - to be a member of the Board of Immigration Appeals. Putting aside fairness to him, it would have ill served the public interest not to appoint him merely because those who first hired him had violated the civil service laws. Firing him and all those like him would be wrong, and it would be harmful to the Department and to the country.

In the same speech, Mukasey promised a "swift and unambiguous response" if anyone is "found to be handling or deciding cases based on politics, and not based on what the law and facts require."

The Times study certainly suggests that judges hired under this illegal process were likely to rule more harshly than their peers. It will be interesting to see if Mukasey considers these findings proof of "handling or deciding cases based on politics."

Some interesting news broke today that has been buried amid the orgy of convention coverage: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said -- apparently in a speech to tribal leaders in the Green Zone -- that the U.S. and Iraq had agreed that all "foreign soldiers" would leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Maliki was promptly shot down by the White House, which maintained there is no pullout date.

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have been working toward an agreement for months, with the U.S. seeking a legal basis for stationing troops in Iraq when U.N. authority expires at the end of this year.

Here's how Campbell Robertson of the International Herald Tribune reported Maliki's comments today:

Iraq and the United States have agreed on a date for the departure of all American troops as part of a broader security pact they are negotiating, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said Monday.

"There is actually an agreement concluded between the two parties over the definite date, which is 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said.

Maliki made the comments in a speech to tribal leaders in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it was far from clear that the issue had been settled.

In its own version of the story, Agence France-Presse runs a slightly different Maliki quote:

"There is an agreement between the two sides that there will be no foreign soldiers in Iraq after 2011," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office.

AFP also includes a stern denial from Bush Administration spokesman Tony Fratto, who maintains that "we have not yet finalized an agreement." Fratto even seems to back away from Condoleezza Rice's recent endorsement -- however mushy -- of a "timetable" for withdrawal. Fratto's comment, after the jump:

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In the wake of the CIA's offical denial of Ron Suskind's explosive claim that the White Houe ordered the agency to fabricate a letter suggesting a Saddam- al Qaeda link, the blogger Laura Rozen makes a couple interesting points.

First, the CIA's statement seems to come close to contradicting Richer's own denial. According to the CIA statement, "our government considers Habbush [Saddam's former intelligence chief] to be a wanted man," implying that they don't know where he is. But Richer makes clear that the Bush administration was actively discussing how to use Habbush, writing of his conversations with Suskind: "I do speak to discussions regarding using Habbush, which were frequent during that period, but what I was talking about was the possibility of using him to tamp down the insurgency - not to influence western public opinion."

Richer also writes: "I was asked to respond to documents regarding the potential use of Habbush upon his defection ... I was also involved in many queries from elements of the Administration trying to document an Al-Qa'ida and Saddam government link." As Rozen notes, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation doesn't appear to have seen these documents. Did the CIA fail to turn them over?

Looks like this is far from over...

A joint U.S.-Afghan attack killed 78 people on Friday morning, according to Afghan officials and human rights monitors. The tally contradicts the official U.S. coalition account, which reported that 30 militants and only five civilians were killed in the battle. The U.S. has said it will further investigate the matter. (AP)

Two U.S. Marines were found in contempt of court after they refused to testify against their former squad leader, accused of killing four Iraqi detainees. The Marines had previously told investigators that they had been ordered to kill the Iraqis by squad leader Sgt. Jose Nazario to avoid taking the time to process the prisoners according to the laws of war. Nazario is now being charged with manslaughter. (Los Angeles Times)

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick rejected a plea offer from state prosecutors on Friday, in which the prosecutors would have dropped two felony assault charges against the Mayor in return for his resignation from office. The Mayor is accused of shoving two police officers as they attempted to serve a subpoena to one of his friends. A spokesman for the Mayor said that he considered the plea deal politically motivated and insincere. (New York Times)

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The corruption case against Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is already yielding some interesting fruit.

Newsweek reported Saturday that, in a 2006 conversation secretly recorded by the FBI, Stevens and Bill Allen -- the oil-services executive who allegedly provided Stevens with $250,000 in financial gifts -- discussed how to get a pipeline bill through the Alaska legislature.

Stevens told Allen: "I'm gonna try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here and say, 'Look ... you gotta get this done'." Two days later, Vice President Cheney took the unusual step of contacting Alaska lawmakers directly, urging them in a letter to "promptly enact" the legislation. Stevens confirmed to Newsweek that he had indeed asked Cheney to write the letter.

Newsweek notes that the former executive director of Cheney's energy task force had gone on to work as a lobbyist for BP, which would have built the pipeline. The magazine doesn't name the task force director, but it appears to be Andrew Lundquist. And it's worth pointing out that Lundquist -- who had worked as the Bush-Cheney campaign's energy expert in 2000, earning the nickname "Lightbulb" from the president -- has also worked as a top aide to Stevens.

Newsweek also reports that DOJ prosecutors did not include Cheney's letter in their motion and did not respond when the magazine asked why.

On Friday the CIA issued an official denial of Ron Suskind's claim that the White House ordered the CIA to fabricate a letter suggesting a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The statement declared flatly that "it did not happen," and called Suskind's charges "false" and "offensive."

One of Suskind's key on-the-record sources for the claim, former CIA official Rob Richer, had challenged Suskind's account when it was first reported earlier this month. And over the weekend, Richer told The Washington Post that he agrees with the CIA statement, saying that the forgery "never happened."

In response, Suskind suggested to the Post that he thinks the Bush administration has been leaning on his sources. "The White House is focusing on this because there may be legal complications for the administration," he said.

To be continued, no doubt. . .

The Obama camp has issued a statement calling the hiring of voter suppression guru Hans von Spakovsky at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which we first reported yesterday, "unbelievable."

From Obama spokesman Michael Ortiz:

"Given Hans Von Spakovsky's controversial record on voting rights, it's unbelievable that he would now be offered a staff position with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a federal entity charged with ensuring that voting rights are not violated. This is yet the latest indication that the Bush Administration is not serious about protecting the most fundamental right that protects all others - the right to vote."

This might be something that deserves looking into, oh, before November.

Earlier this month, Ron Suskind reported in an excerpt from his book, The Way of the World, that in September 2003, the White House ordered CIA Director George Tenet to fabricate a letter suggesting a level of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that did not exist.

Now the CIA has responded. A statement obtained by Editor and Publisher, to be posted on the CIA's website this afternoon, reads:

In his book, "The Way of the World," author Ron Suskind makes some serious charges about the CIA and Iraq. As Agency officers current and former have made clear, those charges are false. More than that, they are not in keeping with the way CIA works. In fact, they are profoundly offensive to the men and women who serve here, as they should be to all Americans.

As E&P notes, Suskind recently responded to denials by posting a portion of one interview on his website. And a Congressional committee has begun an investigation, so we may yet learn more.

Full statement after the jump...

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Ah yes, that's the principled, straight-talking maverick we all know and love...

Back in 2000, when John McCain was running for the GOP nomination as an insurgent against the Republican establishment, he trumpeted his desire to change the party platform's call for a human life amendment banning all abortions. McCain wanted to add an exception in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother. And in a primary debate, he went after George W. Bush for wanting to leave the platform unchanged.

As late as April 2007, he was singing the same tune, telling reporters in Iowa that he stood by his 2000 position .

But The Wall Street Journal reports today that the McCain camp now says he has no plans to try to change the platform. A campaign spokeswoman told the paper: "The delegates are going through the process and we are going to let them work their will on the platform." In other words, McCain is taking a hands-off approach.

As notes, McCain's shift comes after a graphic warning from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who said in June that if McCain tried to alter the abortion plank, he "would be aborting his own campaign" by angering socially conservative voters.

Looks like McCain got the message.

Attorney Gen. Michael Mukasey has agreed to postpone new FBI guidelines that would relax conduct of national security investigations. Mukasey was asked to do this earlier this week by the chairman and ranking minority leader on the Senate Judicial Committee out of civil liberties concerns. Mukasey will not sign off on the new regulations until he at least hears the testimony of FBI Dir. Robert Mueller in September. (Senate Judiciary Committee)

Two marines have been ordered to testify against their former squad leader, on trial for killing four Iraqi detainees. The marines, Sgt. Ryan Weemer and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, have already been jailed twice for refusing to testify against Jose Luis Nazario. Prosecutors allege that Nazario killed "unarmed, submissive, docile" Iraqi civilians in Fallujah. (AP)

An office of the Bureau of Land Managment made improper deals with private helium reginers at the expense of taxpayers. According to a Department of Interior report, a field office in Texas allowed refiners to profit by overcharging for equipment. The deal may result in the government's equipment costs almost doubling by the time the contracts expire in 2015. (Washington Post)

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